WASHINGTON (AP) – “EVOLVING RATE OF MURDERING,” said the National Fraternal Order of Police. “An explosion of violent crime,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Democrat-led cities across the country that have cut police funding have seen crime rise,” tweeted U.S. Representative Patrick McHenry, RN.C.
On social media and in political speeches, some Republicans and pro-police groups say last year’s calls to cut spending on law enforcement have led to a dramatic increase in killings in cities overseen by the police. democrats.
The increases they cite are real and several large cities have cut police spending. But the cuts were mostly modest, and the same large increases in homicides are seen nationwide – even in cities that have increased police spending. At the same time, the rates of burglaries, drug offenses and many other types of crime are dropping in many cities across the country.
The effort to blame Democrats for the crime may offer insight into Republicans’ strategy for the upcoming election: a new twist on an old “law and order” argument from the party’s past, dating back to President Richard Nixon.
Much like half a century ago, the argument ignores the complicated reasons for fluctuating crime rates – a list that today includes the upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the protests that erupted after George’s murder. Floyd by the police.
“2020 was just a crazy, complicated year where a lot of things happened, and there are a lot of potential explanations why we have seen these big changes,” said David Abrams, professor at the law school. from the University of Pennsylvania, which tracks crime rates and studies the impact of the pandemic. The bottom line? “It is complicated.”
At the end of last month, the National Fraternal Order of Police posted a graph on social media showing sharp increases in the homicide rate in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Portland, Oregon – all cities currently ruled by Democrats. “The leaders of all these towns handed over the keys to the ‘Defund the Police’ crowd,” the post read.
The figures were alarming: homicides in Chicago, up 22% until the end of May compared to the same period last year. In Minneapolis, homicides increased 56%; in Portland, 800%.
The top Republicans have also taken up the claim.
“Look what happens where they fund the police,” former President Donald Trump said at the GOP convention in North Carolina on Saturday, echoing an argument he made during the campaign trail. Last year. “The crime rate increases by 50, 60, 100%, 131% in a city.
Murders have been on the rise since 2020, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story about cuts in police spending or a worrying increase in homicides seen across the country.
Last year in Minneapolis, city officials shifted $ 8 million – less than 5% of the police budget – to programs focused on community mental health and violence prevention. In February, they approved $ 6.4 million to hire new police officers after an unprecedented number of officers retired or took extended medical leave after Floyd’s murder.
In Portland, homicides rose from six in the first five months of 2020 to 38 in the first five months of 2021, according to city police data, an increase of more than 530%. That’s lower than the 800% increase claimed by the Fraternal Order of Police, which said it was based on homicides until May 25.
The city, a center of police funding efforts, cut its police budget last year by less than 4%, well below the $ 50 million in cuts sought by activists.
This year, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, called for more funds for programs targeting gun violence, which he says is a national problem. “It has reached crisis proportions,” he said in March.
Los Angeles and Chicago also saw double-digit increases in their homicide rates this year and cut police spending. Chicago has cut its police budget by 3%, largely by eliminating vacancies. Los Angeles has cut police spending by about 5% overall.
Yet homicide rates are also rising in cities that have not cut spending.
In Houston, a city run by a Democratic mayor, murders have increased, but so have the police.
Nashville, Tennessee, also led by a Democratic mayor, has increased the police budget but has seen homicides increase by 50% so far this year compared to last year.
Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Fresno, Calif., Have also seen more killings so far in 2021. Both cities have Republican mayors.
Meanwhile, other types of crime are on the decline, according to preliminary statistics and researchers who say crime initially fell around the world after the start of the pandemic. While cities are reporting increases in their homicide rates, there has not been a similar increase for other crimes, such as burglaries, thefts or drug offenses.
It’s not what you would expect if calls for police funding led to an upsurge in crime, Abrams said.
“Any theory explaining the increase in homicides should also explain why we haven’t seen a spike in other types of crime,” he said.
So why are murders on the rise?
The economic losses and personal stress caused by the pandemic are one suggestion. COVID-19 has also disrupted in-person education and many community-based programs designed to crack down on violence. This has put a strain on the police, hospitals, courts and other institutions responsible for combating the impact of crime.
Other possibilities include the increase in the number of guns and protests against the killings of police officers that could have emboldened criminals. Then there is a whole host of factors that contribute to localized violence, including gangs, drugs and poverty.
James Alan Fox, a criminologist and professor at Northeastern University in Boston, said small changes in the police budget or party affiliation of a particular mayor probably wouldn’t play a big role. Some fluctuations in violence are long standing problems.
“It’s not related to the ruling party,” Fox said. “But you can gain a lot of votes by pushing fear.”
Nixon used a similar argument in his successful 1968 presidential campaign, claiming that civil rights protests “have torn 300 cities apart.” studies the history of criminalization in America.
Now as then, the deceptive crime allegations appear designed to exploit racism among white voters while ignoring the real reasons for the increase in homicides, she said.
“Instead of tying this to COVID, mass unemployment and general anxiety, they say somehow calls for police funding are behind it, as a way to justify further policing as a response, ”Hinton said.
Associated Press editors Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles, Don Babwin in Chicago, and Terrence Fraser in New York City contributed to this report.