With a Quack Quack Here

June 8, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

Heather MacDonald, in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, tried to blame an increase in killings of cops this year on a “Ferguson effect.”  Protests over the police killing unarmed people cause politicians to criticize the police. The police, rather than risk sanctions, reduce their proactive efforts. As a result, the “criminal element is feeling empowered.” So crime and cop-killing increase.

In a post last week, I offered a simple count of cop killings to show that MacDonald’s assertions about them were quack criminology. I didn’t say anything about crime in general, but in yesterday’s Daily News (here), Frank Zimring, a distinguished criminologist, calls out MacDonald on those numbers as well.

The most recent official crime statistics indicate that so far in 2015, [New York City] has experienced significant declines from 2014's ultra-low levels in burglary, robbery and larceny. At the same time, total homicides for the first five months of the year at 135 are higher than in 2014 — but quite close to the pace of 2013 and around 30% lower than in 2010.

At their current rate, killings in New York City would end 2015 as either the third or fourth lowest year in the city’s modern history.

“Ferguson Effect”? Doesn’t look like it.

And if such an effect has indeed increased the New York homicide total, should it also get credit for the 223 fewer robberies so far in 2015 when compared to the previous year? How about the 974 fewer burglaries in five months?

The Zimring asks, “Why Mac Donald’s fearful haste?”

His answer is, roughly, that MacDonald and The Manhattan Institute where she is the Thomas W. Smith fellow just have a penchant for a sky-is-falling perception of crime. He could have added that the corollary to this view is a preference for policies promoting punishment and the police.*

* Years ago I posted (here) about MacDonald’s “lock ’em up” views on drugs.

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