What's Really Behind This Policy To 'Get Tough' On Crime?

If Sessions was really serious about reducing crime, he’d sit down with New York City’s top cop, James O’Neill, and ask him to explain why the city’s crime rates are so low.
04/26/2017 11:25 am ET

            Now that a leading crime-fighter has been installed as Attorney General, we can rest easy because the great crime wave sweeping America will come to an immediate halt. And if you don’t believe there’s a lot of violent crime out there, Donald Trump promised to “liberate our citizens from the crime and terrorism and lawlessness that threatens their communities” if he were elected President. Which is kind of funny since a new report by the Brennan Center points out that with the exception of three cities – Chicago, Baltimore, DC – violent crime in the United States is at the lowest point of the last quarter-century, having declined by 50 percent since 1991.

            But when was the last time you heard anything out of the White House which actually aligned with the facts? And when it comes to comments about crime the new Attorney General has even less regard for the truth than his boss. How could it be otherwise when he talked about New York City as one of nine jurisdictions that is “crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime,” with the city seeing “gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city [being] ‘soft on crime.’”

            Not only has Big Apple violent crime dipped to historic lows over the last several years, but much of this decrease is the result – ready? – of a major drop in gang crime, particularly gang shootings, which is exactly the reverse of what numbskull Sessions now claims. For the first time ever, shootings in New York City during 2016 dropped to below 1,000, with gang-related shootings dropping by 25% from the previous year, and gang-related gun homicides dropping almost 40% which brought the overall homicide number down to 335.

            The Attorney General is lying when he says that New York City is suffering from a gang crime wave, because the New York City crime numbers are reported each year to the Feds. Sessions is pushing a ‘tough on crime’ agenda not only as an attempt to make it look like the Trump Administration is fixing yet another one of Obama’s mistakes, but he’s recklessly endorsing a ‘get tough’ crime policy which isn’t needed at all.

            Another Brennan Center report on the new direction being taken by Trump and his minions points out that not only is violent crime at historic lows, but that the ‘get tough’ approach “contradicts the emerging consensus among conservatives, progressives, law enforcement, and researchers that the country’s incarceration rate is too high, and that our over-reliance on prison is not the best way to address crime.”

            There is some truth to the idea that while violent crime is going down, illegal drug-use is going up. But these are very different drugs from what fueled the explosion of crack-cocaine in the early 1990’s because this time much of the current drug products are opioids, which even though they come from overseas (mainly China) represent a much different type of drug problem both in terms of cause and response. And while the Brennan report finds some evidence that Sessions understands the need to tie more comprehensive treatment rather than harsher punishments to the increase in opioid use, the rhetoric coming out of his office continues to focus primarily on a ‘get tough’ approach to all crime.

            What’s really behind this new policy to ‘get tough’ on crime? First is the cynical and wholly-politicized strategy to sell the idea that Trump is making America ‘great’ again by sweeping away all the political detritus of the Obama ‘regime.’ Second is the attempt to wrap crime policy around immigration because most immigrants are here illegally which makes them more prone to commit crimes (which in fact is not one but two Trump lies.)

            If Sessions was really serious about reducing crime, he’d sit down with New York City’s top cop, James O’Neill, and ask him to explain why the city’s crime rates are so low. But what Sessions is really serious about is helping his boss convince us that every time he tells a lie he’s revealing a new truth.

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