Justice Department posits some sort of reverse Ferguson Effect

As we’ve discussed here frequently this year, the murder rate (along with other violent crimes) has reversed a two decade downward trend in many of our large cities of late and begun rising at an alarming pace. The police on the beat know it and the mayors of these cities have struggled to come up with explanations. Thus far the Justice Department has been largely silent on the matter, but now Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist, has dipped a toe into the debate. His theories will come as a surprise to many, I’m sure. (Washington Post)

The theory — one of several that criminologist Richard Rosenfeld presents in the paper — suggests that, after a number of widely discussed law-enforcement killings of young black men during the past couple of years, residents of predominately black and disadvantaged urban neighborhoods further lost confidence in the police.

A loss of trust could have made residents of those places less likely to share information with law enforcement about dangerous criminals. With a newfound sense of impunity, these criminals might have begun committing even more crimes. And threatened by the violence, neighbors might have armed themselves instead of going to the police for protection, the theory suggests.

“When persons do not trust the police to act on their behalf and to treat them fairly and with respect, they … become more likely to take matters into their own hands,” Rosenfeld writes. “Disputes are settled informally and often violently.”

The short version of the story, as told by Rosenfeld, is that the police are out of control and this has reduced the trust inner city residents place in them. This lack of trust makes them less likely to provide information to the police about violent criminals or to report crimes they see. Further, if they are too suspicious of the cops, rather than calling them they will take up arms and address any threats they perceive on their own, violently if necessary.

Oddly enough, when the Ferguson Effect is brought up, critics point out that it’s hogwash because there is no way to quantify the motives of criminals so there is no data to support the theory. This proposal offers precisely the same amount of quantifiable data – that being zero – but will be far more well received among Social Justice Warriors and their allies in the media.

I agree that data collection is problematic when dealing with human emotion and motivation, but surely some common sense can be applied here. If residents in a high crime neighborhood fear that police will be hesitant to respond to trouble (the Ferguson Effect) will they be less likely to call them and report criminal activity? Certainly seems reasonable. But if they are distrustful of the cops, are they going to avoid calling them because they’re afraid that they will be the ones who will be shot for reporting a crime? That’s some fairly twisted logic.

And what of this idea that residents will be more likely to grab a gun and go settle their own scores? We’re already seeing a lot of that happening, with Bunny Friend Park being one of the most high profile examples. Do you honestly believe those were vigilantes heading out to fight crime because of some lack of trust in the police? These are gang war scenarios. None of those combatants were going to be calling the cops no matter what the general public attitude toward the police was.

This new theory from Richard Rosenfeld should be discarded out of hand. It seeks to find a way to blame the police for the rise in crime, not for failing to stop criminal activity, but for causing it in the first place. This is SJW nonsense of the highest order.