Journalism and politics are supposed to be two professions comprised of smart people. Smart people that have the ability to correctly connect the dots. However, a divided political landscape has encouraged a deliberate blindness. The result, some of the smart people do connect the dots, but they don’t want you to do so. Instead they rely on the old magician’s trick of distractions. For example, their most recent go to: “it’s the pandemic.” An answer big enough to cover nearly every failure. Failing schools. The pandemic. A crashed economy. The pandemic. But, even with these issues it would be more accurate to say the failures were the response to the pandemic, not the pandemic. Covid didn’t, month after month, close schools or lockdown the economy for most Americans (lest we forget, big pharma and Amazon did great). Politicians, unelected bureaucrats (one in government for 50-plus years), and a complicit media led that charge. To say Covid is the cause for the rise in gun violence AND reckless driving? Please. Even a magician would be embarrassed by that sleight of hand. No, the dots to be connected there do not end at “the pandemic.” The “connect the dots” answer is that our political elites and the media have sought to blame a virus for their increasing acceptance of lawlessness.
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
Two Stories – AP Did Not “Connect the Dots“
Perhaps the problem in journalism and politics isn’t that they are not smart – perhaps too many in those professions are just unwilling to seek and speak the truth. In one news feed on 3 February 2022, two Associated Press (AP) stories appeared one after the other. The first, on the rise in gun violence – “during the pandemic.” The second, on the rise of highway traffic fatalities, “during the pandemic.”
In the article, “Biden grappling with ‘perfect storm’ of rising gun violence,” legitimately smart people from AP wrote: “Gun violence already on the rise during the pandemic is spiking anew, and beleaguered cities are struggling with how to manage it.” In the article, “US road deaths rise at record pace as risky driving persists,” more smart people from AP wrote: “NHTSA has blamed reckless driving behavior for increases during the pandemic, citing behavioral research showing that speeding and traveling without a seat belt have been higher. Before 2019, the number of fatalities had fallen for three straight years.” Of course, the implied in both stories is that gun violence, reckless driving and “the pandemic” are connected dots.
Connecting the Violence Dot
Well, it is true that during 2020 the Covid-19 virus spread across the globe and our nation experienced an explosion of violence. Covid was hitting the news early in 2020. Do you remember “15 days to flatten the curve?” The first U.S. lockdowns occurred in March 2020. Fear of the unknown surrounding Covid was high, and the media helped to spread that fear. In May 2020, the New York Times worked for several days on an interesting “connecting the dots” story. But, at that time, the story was about reductions in crime. The article, “A Pandemic Bright Spot: In Many Places, Less Crime,” was subsequently published on the morning of 26 May 2020. The article covered the initial wave of lockdowns and the resulting emptiness of public spaces. For a period of several weeks, with far fewer people out in public, there were fewer potential crime victims – and temporary changes in crime patterns.
The timing of this article is of note. George Floyd was killed the prior evening, Monday, 25 May 2020. Over the next five days tensions escalated, first in Minneapolis and then across the nation and beyond. By the end of the next weekend, there was a major shift in crime. Protests, riots, looting, and crimes of opportunity created a damaging and deadly mix of lawlessness. In Chicago, on Saturday and Sunday, 30 and 31 May 2020, downtown and many neighborhoods were in chaos. In just those two days, 27 people were murdered. Chicago’s murder count was up 350% from the six murders that occurred over those same two dates in 2019. The “connecting the dots” narrative between the pandemic and crime was dramatically changed.
Why the Pandemic Isn’t “The” Primary Violence Cause:
The rising violence was most evident in America’s urban areas. Yes, pandemic mandates did complicate matters. For example, for nearly all of 2020, schools were kept closed. But, nearly all school-aged youth and teens are not in school every summer. The pandemic response issue that most closely related involved the dramatic reductions in jail populations and slowed court processes. Early in 2020, jail officials in New York, Chicago and across the country released prisoners to reduce the spread of Covid among the inmates. By June, the New York Police Department reported that 250 of the approximately 2,500 inmates released early from the city’s Riker’s Island corrections facility had been rearrested – some more than once. NBC New York reported: “Commissioner Shea says with bail changes and health concerns enabling repeat offenders, it’s no surprise that crime is rising.”
Lockdowns – more often called “stay-at-home” orders – caused economic and social disorder. But even before summer officially started, many people began to increasingly ignore the lockdowns. On 2 May 2020, an angry Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a press conference to threaten citations and arrests for people participating in large gatherings. The mayor declared: “We’re not playing games. We mean business, and we’re going to shut this down one way or the other. The time for educating people into compliance is over. Don’t be stupid.” She added: “We will shut you down. We will cite you, and if we need to, we will arrest you, and we will take you to jail.” Such was an interesting threat, given the push at the jail was out, not in. Cook County State’s Kim Foxx proudly told CNN on 17 April 2020, that over the prior four weeks the county had released 25% of its inmates. The releases were driven by the desire to reduce the jail’s population ostensibly due to the pandemic.
The “connect dots” answer most responsible for the spike in violence was damage caused to the police-community relationship and a political lack of will relative to the rule of law. In short, too many of the nation’s elected officials, and much of the media, demonstrated an assisted suicide acceptance of lawlessness. The murder rate nationally in 2020 rose nearly 30 percent. The largest recorded single-year percentage increase. The lawlessness was far less an outgrowth of the pandemic, and far more a byproduct of non-prosecuting prosecutors and the demonization of the policing profession. In response, thousands of police officers have tagged out via retirements, resignations, and stepping back.
As we have highlighted, public safety has been harmed by the advancement of a deliberately unattainable standard, which our founder, Thomas Lemmer has identified as “tragedy-free policing, or else.” Proactive efforts by the nation’s police officers are now too often giving way to officer fears of the consequences that could come from unintentional errors, or even lawful and procedurally-correct actions that end in controversy. Recently retired Atlanta Police Officer Tyrone Dennis described the full and negative impact now falling on the police. He told CNN: “Basically we are one bullet away from death and one mistake from indictment.” In the absence of proactive, constitutional policing, lawlessness grows. The dots to connect to the rise in violence flow from the demonization of the police and a dismantling of the criminal justice system to the rise of lawlessness. Violence is not up because of Covid.
Why the Rise in Traffic Fatalities?
The medical data suggests the pandemic is moving toward what is called an “endemic.” In that stage, the virus is still around, but it is connected to far less simultaneously ill people, and those who are sick more frequently recover without the need for hospitalization. The violence and fatal traffic crash data do not show a similar lessening of those problems. Such would seem to be an additional issue for the violence, reckless driving, and Covid “dot connecting” claim.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 31,720, traffic fatalities in the U.S. during the first nine months of 2021, up 12% from the same period in 2020. The AP reported the data indicates that deaths in 2021 from traffic crashes were: “keeping up a record pace of increased dangerous driving during the pandemic.” Covid is an even more ridiculous explanation for the rise in traffic fatalities than the attempts to fix the cause of rising violence on the pandemic.
The explanation here is simpler. In times of lawlessness of course those without regard for the rule are not intimidated by the vehicle code. Carjackers are not known for their concerns for public or traffic safety. Furthermore, in major cities across the nation, police procedures and changes in state laws have discouraged traffic enforcement, and even outright prohibited the police from stopping vehicle drivers observed committing minor traffic violations. Fatal crashes increase with reckless driving behaviors. Reckless driving is just one more symptom of a growing irrelevance of the law. The pandemic did not cause a rise in traffic fatalities. [Yet, some fatal traffic crash victims who tested positive for Covid could have been counted in the Covid deaths number, as Covid deaths received expedited and enhanced payment by the federal government. But we digress.]
Get Out of Jail Free Card
Changing bail laws in a way that has already shown to be a disaster in New York state, and will worsen next year in Illinois, is a massive mistake. No. We agree, first-time, non-violent offenders who are not likely to flee from the jurisdiction of the court should not linger in pretrial detention. But, crime victims and public safety must also be priorities in this equation. Repeat offenders already released pending trail, and defendants with long histories of violence, connected to criminal groups, and charged with violent crimes should not be simply released again on a mere promise to come back to court. Nor should we merely hope that they will not intimidate victims and witnesses, or engage in new crimes.
Secondly, unchecked thievery, in which mass looting is commonplace, must be addressed. The nullification of theft laws is beyond foolish. In just one New York pharmacy shoplifters took $200,000 in merchandise in about two months. Organized mass thefts, particularly at high-end retailers, are now routine in America’s big cities. In one recent spree of lawlessness in Chicago, the offenders dumped emptied stolen cash registers in front of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s residence. Such was an apparent “in-your-face” sarcastic display of contempt. The claim that shoplifting is just the poverty-stricken trying to eat is not how this has played out.
The rise of lawlessness is clearly connected with increasing “prosecutor nullification” of the law in America’s urban centers. Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, and now New York City are just a sampling of the cities that have not shown a resolve to keep crime victims and public safety as a priority. We can thank those same prosecutors, as well as pandering politicians and lenient judges for what has seemed like a perpetual supply of “get out of jail free” cards. In a brazen move, not too unlike leaving stolen (but empty) cash registers in front of the governor’s residence, many of these advocates have literally pushed to empty the jails. It is ironic, they have done so while attempting to use the pandemic as their own “get out responsibility-free” card.
As a Community Are We Ready to Say “Enough?!”
We asked a key question in our 8 January 2020 post, “Buried Yesterday, Is There Resolve Today?” Is the community ready to say: Enough!? The post spoke about the execution-style murder of Bradley, Illinois Police Sergeant Marlene Rittmanic, acknowledged the murder of Wayne County, Illinois Deputy Sheriff Sean Riley, and covered the ambush-style murder of Baltimore Police Officer Keona Holley. Sadly, just this week, the NYPD had to bury two of their own – Police Officer Jason Rivera and Police Officer Wilbert Mora. These officers were murdered at one of those domestic dispute calls that those who never did police work say unarmed social workers should handle. Also, even though we are just 34 days into 2022, we are angered that there are other officers who have been murdered since New Year’s Day. We call attention to the murders of Los Angeles Police Officer II Fernando Arroyos; Harris County, Texas Constable’s Office Corporal Charles Galloway; Bridgewater College Police Department Police Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer J.J. Jefferson. Enough!
It’s time. It’s beyond time that as a community we call for the end of the two-year long “the pandemic did it” excuse for bad public policy decisions that have harmed public safety. Law-abiding citizens need to be actively engaged. It is time that we insist our elected officials and the media honestly connect the dots. It is time to address the lawlessness that has been allowed to grow. As a community, we need our elected and civic leaders to foster unifying approaches that advance constitutional policing, reduce violence, address chronic crime conditions, improve public safety, protect victims, foster wellness, and enhance community support for the police. We need the media to seek and speak the truth.
We are interested in your thoughts, and invite you to comment below.