Is Crime Data Validating the ‘Ferguson Effect’? Let the numbers and law enforcement officers speak for themselves.
by ANTHONY CHIBARIRWE From theTrumpet.com
he latest spike in violent crime in major cities in the United States reveals something that we all can agree on: Increased public scrutiny of law enforcement is not mitigating crime rates.
Why are violent crime rates soaring?
Homicides in St. Louis, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; Baltimore, Maryland; Memphis, Tennessee; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Los Angeles, California have risen sharply in recent months.
For U.S. cities with more than 100,000 people, St. Louis was the bloodiest in 2014, with 159 homicides. That number rose 18 percent in 2015 to 188, making it St. Louis’s deadliest year in two decades. A recent spike in drug-related murder rates this year is set to make it one of America’s most dangerous cities by the end of 2016.
A record 135 people were murdered in Chicago in the first three months of this year, according to the city’s police department. That’s a spike of 71 percent from the same period last year. At that rate, the former FBI murder capital of America is set to record the worst first-quarter homicide statistics since 1999. It’s also set to record over 500 homicides by the end of the year, which would be only the second time since 2008.
Fatal and non-fatal shootings in Chicago so far this year rose 73 percent to 727 incidents.
The Ferguson Effect
What is the cause of this recent spike in homicides and crime rates? Some have attributed it to the Ferguson effect—the concept that the protests and public scrutiny of law enforcement officers that stemmed from the Michael Brown shooting in August 2014 have had the boomerang effect of drawing back police officers and empowering criminals.
Various studies on crime trends concluded that the Ferguson effect does not exist. United States President Barack Obama called it “cherry-picking
data or using
anecdotal evidence to drive policy or to feed political agendas.”
In a May 2015 article, “The New Nationwide Crime Wave,” Heather Mac Donald of the conservative Manhattan Institute wrote that “the nation’s two-decades-long crime decline may be over” because of the Ferguson effect.
Mac Donald’s opponents say today’s crime rates are still not as bad as they were in the 1990s. That may be true, but what matters is the direction of the trend—and violent crime appears to be increasing once again. Others say that the monthly homicide ratios from 2013 to 2014 in some cities were actually higher in some of the months before the Ferguson shooting of Brown. The opponents also say that the national crime rate hasn’t really changed much from 2014 to 2015: Murder rates rose in almost as many U.S. cities as they dropped in others.
As Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune stated: “A one-year increase is not a lasting upward trend—but any lasting upward trend begins with a one-year increase.” With 2016 off to such a blistering start, hindsight may prove 2015 to be an inflection year.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey explains why. At the University of Chicago Law School in October, he said: “I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill
wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year. And that wind is surely changing behavior.”
Consider Chicago. In January, the city’s law enforcement made 32 percent less arrests (6,818) than in the same month last year (almost 10,000). Yet more people were murdered in the first three months of the year than at any time in the city’s history. As of the end of March, 727 people had been shot in Chicago—a 73 percent rise from a year earlier. That jump follows two consecutive years in which shootings rose by double digits. Arrest rates have declined in other U.S. cities, such as St. Louis, Baltimore, Los Angeles and New York City.
According to “numerous” officers interviewed by the Tribune, there is a connection. Officers observed that they had become “less aggressive on the street out of fear that doing even basic police work would get them into trouble. Criminals were taking advantage of their passive approach.”
Two anonymous Baltimore policemen told CNN in June that officers had become less assertive and aggressive because of the heightened scrutiny from the media and the public. “Even though you have reasonable suspicion,” one of them said, “nine out of 10 times, that officer is going to keep on driving.” Another officer from New York City told Heather Mac Donald, “I won’t get out of my car for a reasonable-suspicion stop; I will if there’s a violent felony committed in my presence.”
Of course, the elephant in the debate room about the Ferguson effect is race. The “Ferguson effect” in St. Louis is attributed to the shooting death of an unarmed black man, Michael Brown, by a white officer, Darren Wilson, in a city just 10 miles away. The “Ferguson effect” in Chicago is related to Ferguson indirectly, but it’s more directly related to the shooting death of a knife-wielding black man, Laquan McDonald, by a white police officer, Jason Van Dyke.
Because of the race factor, some of the opponents of the Ferguson effect—chiefly the Black Lives Matter movement—make the sweeping generalization that law enforcement is inherently racially biased against blacks. This is something not confirmed by facts. The Color of Crime—a study by economic consultant Edwin S. Rubenstein of the ESR Research—indicates that racial bias within law enforcement is negligible.
In the August Trumpet, editor in chief Gerald Flurry discussed the problems that naturally result when the nation’s law enforcement—instead of the criminals—is handcuffed. That result, in short, is that violent crime will increase. “We must see what is happening in America today as God does,” he wrote in “Police Under Attack.” “We have to recognize the cause and see the spiritual dimension. Then we can look at Bible prophecy and see exactly where it is leading. … But in the end, these nation-destroying problems are actually correction from God to help us see our sins and repent of them. The same Bible that prophesies of our cities burning shows that ultimately, all this suffering will help bring this nation to its senses and prepare us to submit to God once Jesus Christ returns to this Earth. Thank God for that!”