The liberals who won't acknowledge the crime problem

If an increase of more than 45 percent in burglaries does not qualify as significant, then what would be? (When I requested comment, a Times spokesperson, Charlie Stadtlander, defended the article, noting San Francisco police data showing declines in several categories of crime since Boudin took office. “While burglaries increased sharply,” Stadtlander wrote in an email, “the pandemic and other broad societal factors seem to have influenced the patterns of property crime, rather than any causal link to policies within the purview of a district attorney.”)

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The very nature of truth and reality has come under similar scrutiny in Philadelphia. In late 2021, Krasner declared, “We don’t have a crisis of lawlessness, we don’t have a crisis of crime, we don’t have a crisis of violence.” He added, “It’s important that we don’t let this become mushy and bleed into the notion that there is some kind of big spike in crime.” The debate, though, was a national one, consuming local politics in cities across the country. How should one assess crime? Were the numbers just the numbers? On the question of whether or not there was a crisis, The Guardian dutifully published a fact-check last summer. “‘Crime’ is not surging,” the reporters wrote, referring to national-level rates. “Even the broader category of ‘violent crime’ only increased about 3 percent last year … It’s homicide in particular that has increased, even as other crimes fell’” (emphasis mine). The article shifted back and forth between noting large homicide spikes in cities such as New York and St. Louis and describing a less dramatic, but still worrisome, national trend.

The motivated reasoning here, ostensibly in the form of an objective fact-check, reveals a larger instinct to minimize the problem. America is a big country. Were Philadelphians supposed to be reassured that it wasn’t all that bad, on average, everywhere else? In the same article, the Guardian writers did acknowledge that in 2020 Philadelphia “returned close to [its] historic highs for the number of people killed in a single year.” (It surpassed that high the following year.) Yet the article seemed to suggest that alarming figures shouldn’t worry us too much—after all, “even after an estimated 25% single-year increase in homicides, Americans overall are much less likely to be killed today than they were in the 1990s.”

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