While our government reports reflect falling trends of violent crime, our news — coupled with our own observations — paint a different image. Lawlessness is rampant and growing. Is this lawlessness not only ignored but condoned by our local governments' actions?
Just this January, PEW research reported that violent crime has fallen sharply by 49 percent since 1993. However, “…in the much more common category of property crime, only about a third (36 percent) were reported.” Pew also tells us that there is only an 18 percent national clearance rate for these; that is 18 percent of the 36 percent reported which reflects that less than 7 percent of property crimes are solved. Is it any wonder that people decline to report property crime?
In 2016 the New York Post reported that the Manhattan District Attorney announced his office would no longer prosecute “quality-of-life” crimes. He was supported by “City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito who previously introduced a series of bills aimed at cutting criminal arrests for quality-of-life violations … (and who) floated the idea of taking many of the 1.5 million outstanding warrants off the books.”
They continued down this slippery slope last month, when the NY Daily News told us “The district attorneys of Manhattan and the Bronx have agreed to clear all summonses for petty offenses — so-called quality of life crimes — from their books.”
Tom Fuller tells us in his 2016 story in the NY Times that “San Francisco … has seen a sharp jump in property crime, up more than 60 percent since 2010, though the actual increase may be higher because many of the crimes go unreported … Scott Wiener, a supervisor stated ‘San Francisco at times is a consequence-free zone.’”
The prevalence of these quality of life offences has taken on a macabre persona; with “Nearly 21,000 poop sightings … reported in San Francisco in 2017 … RealtyHop created an interactive map — cheekily coded in shades of brown and yellow — that shows the San Francisco neighborhoods with the highest volumes of reported [human] feces.”
A recent Dallas Morning News editorial notes that “[Dallas County District Attorney John] Creuzot says he’ll decline to prosecute theft of personal items worth less than $750 unless the theft was for financial gain.”
The Morning News continued: “We worry about the new policy creating a system that tells petty criminals their bad acts are OK and that demands police officers look the other way. …we can’t lose sight of the thousands of real victims of these crimes for which their experiences erode their feelings of safety — real or perceived — in their neighborhoods.”
When Manhattan first instituted their policy Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association, stated: “They are now sending a message that minor offenses are no longer important to address.”
Washington D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham and Jessie K. Liu, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, stated in an letter to the editor of The Washington Post last summer: “Less-stringent penalties embolden criminals, demoralize law enforcement and enable violent offenders to return more quickly to terrorizing the very communities who are calling out to the government for help.”
The PEW research also concluded “There are a variety of reasons crime might not be reported, including a feeling that police ‘would not or could not do anything to help.’”
What message of accountability has been sent by wiping 1.5 million warrants off the books? What message is being sent and what alternative is left to the law abiding citizens when the government, supposedly their government, ignores their safety and security — if they can be preyed upon without consequence as long as they are only victimized for less than $750? How long before the “government” will raise that to $1,500?
Do these decisions comport with the Declaration of Independence which says governments are instituted to effect the people’s “safety and happiness,” or the U.S. Constitution that was ratified to “establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility?”
I have wondered before: “Are people losing respect for the law because the law and the governments are losing respect for the people?”
John M. DeMaggio is a retired Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General. He is also a retired Captain in the U.S. Navy, where he served in Naval Intelligence. The above is the opinion of the author and is not meant to reflect the opinion of the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Government.