By Eric Levitz @EricLevitz
July 5, 2021
… In 2019, the U.S. murder rate was about 11 percent higher than it had been in 2014. We do not yet have an official body count for 2020. But preliminary data suggests that, across major cities, homicides rose by an average of 30 percent last year — and then jumped another 24 percent through the first few months of this one. If current estimates prove accurate, 2020 witnessed the largest single-year increase in homicides in U.S. history, and 2021 is on pace to see a jump an even higher jump. …
… Meanwhile, criminological research suggests that:
• Long prison sentences do not deter crime and are actually counterproductive for public safety.
• Investments in preschool and summer-job programs lower disadvantaged young people’s susceptibility to criminal activity.
• Community-based “violence interrupter” programs can preempt lethal violence.
• Raising wages for “low-skill” workers can reduce recidivism, and thus, pro-labor policies are anti-crime policies.
• If the Medicaid expansion is any guide, then increasing access to affordable health care in general — and free drug treatment in particular — can deliver immediate reductions in both violent and property crimes.
• Laws tightening licensing requirements for handgun purchases have yielded dramatic reductions in firearm homicide rates.
… If police primarily deter crime through their mere presence (and the threat of legal consequences it projects), then it is plausible that a different category of public servant could serve much the same function, at a lower social cost. As a team of scholars at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice noted last year, many so-called Business Improvement Districts already successfully rely on unarmed security guards to deter criminal activity.