The Corner

The Evidence Keeps Mounting — the ‘Ferguson Effect’ Looks Real

Remember how the Obama administration and multiple leftists scoffed at the idea that reaction to police controversies in Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago and elsewhere could be contributing to increased murder rates? Well, the scoffing needs to stop:

A new justice department-funded study concludes that a version of the so-called “Ferguson Effect” is a “plausible” explanation for the spike in violent crime seen in most of the country’s largest cities in 2015, but cautions that more research is still needed.

The study, released by the National Institute of Justice on Wednesday, suggests three possible drivers for the more than 16% spike in homicide from 2014 to 2015 in 56 of the nation’s largest cities. But based on the timing of the increase, University of Missouri St Louis criminologist Richard Rosenfeld concluded, there is “stronger support” for some version of the Ferguson Effect hypothesis than its alternatives.

“The other explanations have a difficult time … explaining the timing and magnitude of the increase we saw in 2015 and continue to see in some cities in the current year,” Rosenfeld said.

Interestingly, however, the study’s authors attribute the increase in murders not so much to changed police tactics but instead to community discontent:

The “dominant interpretation” of the Ferguson Effect, he wrote, is that criticism of the police after the killings of unarmed black citizens causes the police “to disengage from vigorous enforcement actions”. Rosenfeld explores an alternative version of the Ferguson Effect, in which “longstanding grievances and discontent with policing in African American communities” are “activated” by controversial incidents of police violence, and then “chronic discontent erupts into violence”.

Inimai Chettiar, director of the justice program at the liberal Brennan Center for Justice, said Rosenfeld’s findings offer “very similar conclusions” to a report issued by her organization in April. That report found the homicide spike was localized in only a few cities, and pinned blame on “community conditions” – not a “national pandemic”.

In this version of the Ferguson effect, “Predatory violence increases because offenders believe victims and witnesses will not contact the police.” At the same time, however, the researchers seek more information on the relationship between crime and police activity:

The paper also recommends that researchers analyze local data on policing activity, including “data on pedestrian and traffic stops, building checks, and other self-initiated police activity”, to see if there is any link between drops in police activity and an increase in homicide. A study of Baltimore’s dramatic homicide spike found a close correlation between drops in some proactive policing and a rise in violence. Researchers dubbed this the Freddie Gray effect. An analysis of recent Chicago police and crime data by FiveThirtyEight found a similar link.

We’re in the midst of an extraordinary political moment, when decades of social progress are unraveling before our very eyes, and critical segments of the government, academy, and elite media are either blind to the truth or too ideologically compromised to care. From positions of cultural prominence and personal safety, they chant “black lives matter” then wash their hands of the carnage and chaos of streets they never drive and sidewalks they never walk. How many more lives must we lose before our nation relearns the lessons of the recent past?


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