Crime Rates Drop After The City Of Baltimore Decides It's Not Going To Waste Resources Prosecuting Minor Offenses
from the do-you-want-to-help-or-do-you-just-want-to-look-busy dept
The argument against anything perceived as “defunding” cops or going just a bit lighter on suspected criminals (like decriminalization of drug possession or the elimination of cash bail) is that the criminals will win. Apparently all they’ve been waiting for is fewer laws so they can break more laws… or something.
A few disingenuous people (some of them holding very powerful offices) have claimed it takes nothing more than people being angry at law enforcement to make crime rates rise. Others claim the only way to keep crime rates down is to harshly police every minor infraction.
There’s no real answer here. Crime rates rise and fall. Mostly, they’ve been falling. Here in the United States, we’ve been enjoying historically low crime rates for most of the last decade. But law enforcement opportunists insist on viewing every deviation from this pattern as the start of an alarming trend, one that can be traced to almost any attempt to introduce accountability to policing.
Over in Baltimore — where cops have been on a rampage — crime rates continue to fall. The backlash from rampant law enforcement corruption has resulted in some changes meant to level the criminal justice playing field and direct law enforcement resources towards more serious crimes. The wild card was a worldwide pandemic. Here’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown for Reason:
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced in March 2020 that her office would dismiss all pending charges for drug possession, prostitution, trespassing, open container, public urination, paraphernalia possession, attempted distribution of drugs, and minor traffic offenses. It would also stop prosecuting new cases for these offenses—a decision born out of the desire to thwart COVID-19 spreading through jails.
Critics of this action claimed this would embolden criminals. But the opposite has happened. Perhaps partially aided by COIVD-related restrictions, crime rates have fallen in the city.
Between March 2020 and March 2021, violent crime in Baltimore dropped 20 percent and property crime dropped 36 percent. Homicides were also down slightly (13 fewer compared to the previous year).
And, as a direct result of this action (which included dismissing nearly 3,000 pending cases and warrants), the city’s jail system is no longer such a drain on residents and their tax dollars. According to the data, incarceration is down 18% and a 40% drop in people “entering the criminal justice system.”
Whatever the underlying reasons, this is better for the city. Crime rates are going down one way or the other. And it’s not due to aggressive enforcement or giving cops permission to run people in for minor legal infractions. Crime rates may increase as COVID restrictions roll back, but critics can’t ignore the results of this criminal justice experiment. And it’s not just that fewer people are out or that prosecutors are pushing as many prosecutions. Even citizens seem fine with these relaxed conditions:
The data showed that 911 calls about drug use, public intoxication and sex work (a proxy for public concern) did not increase following the policy; rather, from March – December 2020, there was a 33% reduction in calls mentioning drugs and a 50% reduction in calls mentioning sex work compared to the prior 2 years.
There was also a drop in recidivism, which indicates tons of nickel-and-dime prosecutions aren’t essential to curbing crime rate growth. The good news is this is now permanent. The action taken during the beginning of the pandemic will be the way forward for the city of Baltimore. If the city can maintain this new status quo going forward, it should produce a useful dataset that may show the way to a safer nation is less law enforcement, rather than more.