Progressives need to admit there’s a violent crime surge

The opinions stated here are my own, not those of my company.

I was recently on Twitter and saw this tweet:

Is it accurate? Yes. Violent crime isn’t nearly as high as in previous decades. However, it’s also misleading and not acknowledging the problem is deeply anti-progressive.

Violent crime is up

When I visit my family in the Philadelphia area, sometimes I’ll watch the local news. The top story nearly every night is another shooting and another homicide. There’ll be b-roll of a memorial or a community talking about their fears.

This isn’t hyperbole and it’s not just “if it bleeds it leads”. This is Action News, not an affiliate of Sinclair. Homicides have significantly risen in Philadelphia in recent years. This was a problem pre-COVID, but it has accelerated.

A hundred extra deaths in one city isn’t going to make a major blip on a national scale, but that really matters to people in those communities.

And let’s be honest, the people most impacted are almost always Black in impoverished inner-city neighborhoods. My family lives in the suburbs and hasn’t personally seen any violent crime. Sure, that could definitely lead people like Dave Johnson to believe it’s not a real problem.

Violent crime impacts whole communities. At the end of a homicide, somebody is dead. That victim had family and friends who now must mourn them. But it has a chilling effect throughout, as they wonder who is next.

Black and Hispanic residents, at 35% and 32%, respectively, were least likely to express feeling “completely or pretty safe” in their neighborhoods, compared to 61% of white residents.

People in Philadelphia are losing their faith in their safety which has cascading effects throughout their lives. They won’t walk around, talk with neighbors, or even learn effectively. How can they be expected to succeed if they’re busy trying to stay alive?

What is progressivism really?

Let’s talk more generally about public safety and why that matters. San Francisco recently recalled their district attorney. There were a number of arguments that people didn’t feel safe. You could pull up crime stats and say that there’s no problem.

Indeed, SF police data reports no increase in homicides compared to last year. It’s a very safe city!

But safety goes beyond that, to make sure everyone feels included. And that should be a very progressive statement. As we’re in Pride Month, we should acknowledge and appreciate the value of inclusion.

Did Chesa Boudin do enough to make people feel included? Defenders will make comments about police incompetence and offenders will cite statistics like a six-fold increase in anti-Asian violence.

That’s not the fault of Boudin. Hate crimes have risen a lot in New York City as well.

Hate crimes have continued to rise this year too. In fact anti-Asian hate crimes were so bad Congress actually passed legislation last year to combat it. There was a mass shooting which targeted Asian Americans last year in Georgia.

Boudin garnered a lot of backlash after saying a murderer of an old Asian man had a “temper tantrum”.

Inclusion is a big tenant of progressive policy. How can people be at their best if they don’t feel safe being themselves? That’s the exact moral that is part of corporate diversity trainings, and it’s a good point to keep in mind. If Asian Americans don’t feel safe being themselves, that’s not following progressivism.

As such, Boudin’s self-described “progressive justice” ideas were not truly progressive. In an office setting, psychological safety means something real. But in the real world, psychological safety has a much stronger connotation which is connected to your real physical safety.

Inclusion isn’t always easy, but it matters. There is a lot of documentation on hate crimes around the world related to COVID-19. Boudin isn’t responsible for it. But in the spirit of progressivism, being a good ally would mean trying to make corrections and amends. That didn’t happen.

Our most vulnerable communities are the ones experiencing very real threats to their safety.

Problems, then Solutions

I ended up replying to that tweet with a screenshot from the Philly crime stats.

The responses I got were actually quite concerning.

It is important to acknowledge that Biden is not responsible for every problem in our lives. There is a large apparatus of government officials at various levels like the district attorney for a city which have a much larger impact on local issues.

However, these tweets failed to acknowledge that there was even a real problem. They turned a blind eye toward material impacts on people and are focused on these national political face-offs. That’s the easiest way to lose.

There seems to be shift among Latinos towards the GOP. Crime is a very salient issue, and one that creates a lot of fear. For some that fear may be exaggerated, but for communities noted above it’s very real. Many are going to vote for the “tough on crime” candidate moreso than policies like climate or even equitable justice.

Fear creates a conservative culture. China’s surveillance apparatus is strong, but the culture is creates is even more alarming. It leads people to censor themselves before even creating content that may embarrass the state. Gay rights, even the right to exist, are being eroded. Most queer people in China won’t be arrested, they’ll just stay in their closets and never be authentically themselves.

At the national level, this also matters. Will voters choose Oz or Fetterman in Pennsylvania? The voters in Philadelphia will have a significant impact on the swing of the Senate. They may vote for a candidate talks more about crime.

At this point in the article, if you call yourself a progressive, you are probably rolling your eyes. “What’s your solution then Nick? Just throw money at unaccountable cops? Punitively punish people for minor offenses?”

Maybe the first thing we should do is listen to the people in the affected communities. In Philadelphia:

Black residents, at 69%, were most likely to say the city needs more police officers, ahead of Hispanic residents at 63% and white residents at 55%.

“But Nick,” you may respond. “That doesn’t mean police are inherently good or will actually keep people safe.” You may also say something about police shootings and excessive violence also hurting these communities.

Okay, you may have some fair rebuttals. Honestly, I don’t really know how to fix these problems. Perhaps there are a variety of policy improvements that need to be made.

But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s table the discussion on solutions. First, we need to acknowledge that there is more violent crime. If one can’t even accept that, how can one expect to convince voters in their vision for the future?

In that future, does that voter actually have a place?

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