MI Responds: Scholars React to Random, Violent Attacks Plaguing Americans
Headlines this week are brimming with disturbing tales of random violence: 32-year-old policy advocate Ryan Carson was stabbed to death in Brooklyn, New York in the early hours of Monday, October 2. Later that night, Democrat congressman Henry Cuellar was carjacked at gunpoint in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a young father was shot to death by previous offender Darryl “Too Tall” Roberts, and in upstate New York, nine-year-old Charlotte Sena was returned to her parents after being kidnapped by a suspect with a history of domestic violence. These stories come on the heels of a viral looting spree in Philadelphia last week, led by social media influencer “Meatball.”
Manhattan Institute scholars react:
“In addition to the fact that these horrific crimes took place within the context of a general upward trend in violent criminal offending that rose sharply in 2020 (but that probably began in 2015), it’s important to appreciate the impact of the ‘randomness’ of these offenses on the public psyche. Serious violent crime is generally hyper-localized and concentrated within very small networks of offenders. As such, most Americans are relatively well-positioned to assess their own risks of victimization based on where they are and with whom they spend time. However, random street crimes—particularly those that take place in generally low-crime areas—can upend whatever sense of security one might derive from steering clear of rougher areas.
“To the extent these offenses continue, it won’t be long before fear of crime begins to occupy a more prominent place in the minds of increasingly broader swaths of the public, which will only exacerbate the already-palpable tension between many Americans and the criminal justice reform activists that currently enjoy outsized influence in policy-making circles and other elite institutions.”
Hannah E. Meyers:
“These horrifying incidents highlight the delusion of progressive reformers in dismantling our criminal justice system and not expecting more harm to innocent people. By forcefully reducing the number of dangerous or violently disturbed criminals we arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate in American cities, we leave innocent citizens vulnerable to attack.
“Random street crime is seldom fully random: it's committed by individuals who are persistently antisocial. When we get rid of the tools to identify and detain this small group of threatening people, we should expect that they will keep hurting others. We need to reinvest in police departments and return greater powers to prosecute and incarcerate to our courts. Those are the agencies trained and equipped to protect us. Until then, mothers in playgrounds and Brooklynites at bus stops will have the unfair burden of trying to protect themselves, staying always on their guard and always at risk.”
—Hannah E. Meyers is a fellow and director of policing and public safety at the Manhattan Institute.
Heather Mac Donald:
“Conservatives can call for the restoration of law and order and of constitutional policing until they are blue in the face. But unless they acknowledge and rebut the reason for the dismantling of policing, nothing will change. That reason is disparate impact. We have stopped arresting and prosecuting crime because doing so has a disparate impact on black criminals. We have decided as a society that we would rather tolerate ever increasing levels of crime than to put more black criminals in prison. For reasons incomprehensible, Black Lives Matter activists have decided to make black criminals, not black victims, their civil rights cause. But when you protect black criminals, you are leaving law-abiding black Americans at the mercy of anarchy. And that anarchy is now spreading throughout society and affecting all. Conservatives must be willing to say that law enforcement that has a disparate impact on black criminals is not per se racist but is simply going where the crime is.”
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