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The New York Times bestseller about the harm that liberal do-gooders have wrought on those they've tried for decades to help
Liberals from Capitol Hill to Hollywood, from our major news organizations to our leading universities, are convinced that they know what's best for America's poor and middle class. And they are equally convinced that anyone who disagrees with them isn't just wrong, but morally inferior, cold hearted . . . maybe even ...
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The New York Times bestseller about the harm that liberal do-gooders have wrought on those they've tried for decades to help
Liberals from Capitol Hill to Hollywood, from our major news organizations to our leading universities, are convinced that they know what's best for America's poor and middle class. And they are equally convinced that anyone who disagrees with them isn't just wrong, but morally inferior, cold hearted . . . maybe even evil.
But consider the mess liberals have made of education, race relations, crime, welfare, homelessness, and just about every other domestic issue over the past four decades. It's a wonder they're still so smug and self-righteous.
Bestselling author and columnist Mona Charen now offers a comprehensive look at the damage caused by decades of well-intentioned liberal “big-heartedness.” She shines the spotlight of truth on the nation's best-known—and most dangerous—do-gooders, including Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon, Jesse Jackson, Al Franken, Maureen Dowd, Bill Moyers, Dan Rather, Katie Couric, Gloria Steinem, and Hillary Clinton.
Mona Charen holds the do-gooders accountable for their bad ideas, and refuses to let them hide from the real world facts that disprove their naïve theories.
“Charen's new book . . . comes at the perfect time. . . . Her book is not only an easy read, but her wit and humor make it truly enjoyable.”
—Betsy Hart, Chicago Sun-Times
“The indispensable Mona Charen devotes her new book . . . to depicting the severe price that America has paid for past acts of ill-considered liberal beneficence. The array of facts Charen assembles, from crime to welfare to education, is daunting and definitive. . . . To read this excellent book is to receive a keen insight into why America has moved so far in the conservative direction in recent years.”
“Following up on her bestselling Useful Idiots, Charen seeks to debunk liberal discourse and unearth the facts that never make the New York Times.”
—Christopher Benson, The Weekly Standard
“Anyone who does not understand the utter cynicism of politics does not understand politics. An education on that subject can be found in Mona Charen's incisive new book, Do- Gooders.”
—Thomas Sowell, Capitalism Magazine
“Do-Gooders abounds in powerful data.”
—Front Page Magazine
If you were inclined to assault your neighbor and steal his car in 1958, you would have to consider that neither the police nor the courts would cut you any slack because you had a deprived childhood. Nineteen fifties' America was hardly a police state, but there was none of the sentimentality toward criminals that would characterize the following two decades. The average robbery earned a sentence of 389 days.1 If you were arrested, the police would be free to question you about your whereabouts at the time the crime was committed and establish your alibi (if any)—all without reading you your rights or permitting you first to phone a lawyer. If, in the course of questioning you about your activities, the police found the baseball bat with which you beat your neighbor over the head, they could use it as evidence against you even if they lacked a warrant when they discovered it.
Thanks to self-described do-gooders, America went on a compassion binge in the 1960s. The compassion was extended toward the poor and minorities; unfortunately, among the prime beneficiaries of this tenderness were violent criminals who would go on to terrorize the very poor neighborhoods whose well-being liberals supposedly sought. Things would improve 30 years later when conservative policy makers were finally able to reverse the liberal policies that had created so much chaos.
An early signal of the sixties' laxity could be found in the statistics on punishment. In 1950, the expected punishment for murder and negligent manslaughter was 2.3 years in prison. By 1970, this had dropped to 1.7 years. Liberal academics and public intellectuals persuaded the nation that we needed to address the “root causes” of crime such as poverty and injustice. The psychotherapeutic model was much in vogue, and notions of “guilt” and “sin” were starting to seem passé. Improve the ghettoes, we were told, and crime would decrease. Give people hope, and crime would evaporate. Certainly expected punishment declined. In 1950, the chance that a murderer would face the death penalty was 1 in 67. By 1997, it had declined to 1 in 246.2
Every kind of crime, property and personal, exploded during the decades of the 1960s and 1970s. At the same time, sentences plunged. The graphs are the inverse of each other. Between 1961 and 1968, while the population expanded and the crime rate rocketed upward, the total number of prison inmates declined.3
The Supreme Court threw its considerable weight into the liberalizing trend in criminal law. In 1949, the Court declared that retribution was “no longer the dominant objective of the criminal law.” With naïve optimism, it declared that the goal of incarceration would henceforth be “reformation and rehabilitation.”4 In Mapp v. Ohio (1961), the Court ruled that evidence obtained without a warrant or otherwise in violation of the Fourth Amendment could not be used in state criminal trials (a federal exclusionary rule had been in effect since 1914).5 Evidence obtained through improper searches would be considered, in legal parlance, fruit of the poisoned tree, and therefore inadmissible. The practical effect, as Justice John Harlan predicted in his dissent, was to vastly increase the number of convictions thrown out “on a technicality.” Justice Benjamin Cardozo had warned presciently in 1926 against a rule that would allow the “criminal to go free because the constable had blundered.”6 But Harlan's and Cardozo's warnings were swept aside. Subsequent studies have suggested that the exclusionary rule does nothing to deter police misconduct.7 A rule requiring that police be sanctioned for illegal searches might have, but that is water over the dam.
The exclusionary rule quickly became a career criminal's best friend. Examples abound. In Washington, D.C., police noticed a car circling a neighborhood repeatedly and became suspicious. They pulled the car over and discovered that the driver had an outstanding arrest warrant. Searching the car, police found a loaded revolver, bullets, a sawed-off shotgun, and ammunition. The defendant was convicted but appealed on grounds that the search of his car was unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed, ruling in 1977 that however justified police suspicions turned out to be, they had no right to search the vehicle without a warrant.8
As Ernest van den Haag, a professor of jurisprudence at Fordham University, pointed out, the exclusionary rule offers no advantage to innocent defendants. It merely serves to exclude evidence of guilt. The innocent man arrested without probable cause derives no benefit.9
In Miranda v. Arizona (1966), the Court clapped handcuffs on the police, ruling that no confession would be admissible in court unless it were preceded by an elaborate overture of warnings and safeguards. It should be noted that it had long been the practice that a confession extracted by coercion or torture would be invalid. The Miranda ruling went far beyond that commonsense rule. Every television crime-show viewer knows that police are now required to recite a lengthy list of rights to any arrested suspect, including, “You have the right to remain silent...,” and to extend the government's obligation to provide a lawyer for each defendant if he cannot afford to hire one himself. It is not possible to measure how many confessions were lost due to the Miranda ruling, but the impact on plea bargains is plain. Criminologist Henry Pontell reports that in the pre-Miranda years, 60 percent of California defendants pleaded guilty to the original top charge. After 1966, that figure dropped to 42 percent.10 Far from simply forbidding police to coerce confessions, Miranda discouraged criminals from cooperating with the police in any fashion.
More than two decades of liberal judging followed, giving rise to outcomes that only intellectuals could rationalize. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (which covers Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah), overruled a district court decision in 1995 involving the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. A prisoner, one Josephine Brown, who believed his inner self to be female but who required an expensive cocktail of hormones to produce an outer simulacrum of femininity, sued the state of Colorado for refusing to provide him/her with estrogen and other medical attention. The district court declined to find that this amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, but the Court of Appeals disagreed. The judge who wrote the opinion was a Clinton appointee.11
Another Clinton-appointed judge, Harold Baer, ruled that $4 million worth of confiscated cocaine and heroin as well as a forty-minute taped confession could not be used in evidence at a drug trial in New York. Baer reasoned that the five suspects in the case had been arrested illegally. Police had noticed one of the defendants double park her car in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York. Four men then dropped large duffel bags into the trunk. When the men caught sight of the police, they fled. The driver was pulled over, her car searched, and seventy-five pounds of drugs were discovered in the duffel bags.12 The state of New York argued that the police had probable cause to search the vehicle since flight is usually interpreted as evidence of wrongdoing. But Judge Baer's view was that fleeing from the police was a normal response for residents of Washington Heights. The police, he said, were viewed as “corrupt, abusive, and violent.”13 Such was the public disgust with this ruling that the judge soon reversed himself (though Judge Baer claimed that hearing additional testimony from another police officer is what changed his mind).
Some liberal judging stories became worthy of late-night comedy. One concerned Judge Bruce Wright of New York, who was so benevolent toward muggers, rapists, and thugs that he earned the nickname “Turn 'Em Loose Bruce.” John Derbyshire of National Review Online related an account of Wright's troubles:
One day, Judge Wright got mugged in the street near his home. He was off work for a few days. It was a big story in the tabloid newspapers, and a lot of people were making jokes about it. When Judge Wright returned to the bench, he made a point of starting off that day's session with an announcement: “As I'm sure you all know, I was the victim of a criminal assault the other day. I want to make it clear that this experience will in no way change my sentencing policies on this bench!” As he paused to let this sink in, someone called out from the back of the courtroom: “Mug him again!”14
There is no question that a liberal approach to crime—leniency in sentencing, greater procedural protections for the accused, rationalizations (poverty, rage, or frustration) for criminal conduct, and a tendency to blame society rather than the perpetrator for criminal acts—created a climate in the 1960s and 1970s that helped to boost the crime rate. Other liberal initiatives and ideas further weakened restraints on lawlessness: the decline of the family, welfare dependency, and the overall withdrawal of respect for authority.
The irony is that liberal solicitude for the criminal class hurt the poor, particularly the black poor who tend to live in central cities, more severely than it affected anyone else. The rich and the middle class have been able, as criminologist John J. DiIulio has characterized it, to “harden their targets.”15 They've invested billions in private security guards for businesses, home burglar alarms, special lighting, and secure apartment buildings with doormen. They've had the freedom, because they have the means, to move away from high-crime areas. The poor, however, were not able to afford those kinds of defenses. They had to rely on cops and the justice system. And yet, when they turned to the police and the courts, what did they find? A great many pin-striped and/or robed limousine liberals, comfortably removed from urban violence themselves, who insisted, in the name of doing good, that every last benefit of the doubt go to the thugs and murderers who were making life utterly miserable for the poor. As we have witnessed in the revival of cities that has accompanied falling crime rates in the 1990s and beyond, crime more than any other factor has blighted poor neighborhoods.
This was clearly not the intention of liberal policy makers. But, as in the cases of homelessness, education, and family structure, the sin lies not so much in the original mistake as in the stubborn refusal to acknowledge unintended results.
Crime as a Civil Rights Issue
Liberal leniency on crime was a direct outgrowth of the heady civil rights era. The paternalism nurtured in the hearts of idealistic liberals as they marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. strongly affected liberal thinking about crime. To the average do-gooder pre-1960, a criminal was just a criminal. But after the civil rights era, criminals came to be seen as victims of society deserving at first pity, later understanding, and, toward the early 1970s, outright celebration. Leonard Bernstein's 1970 fund-raiser for the Black Panthers was Exhibit A in that sorry tale.
The civil rights movement, it must be acknowledged, was liberalism's glory. Rarely does a public policy question present itself in such stark relief as good versus evil. The scandal of racism had to be exposed; the sin of racial discrimination had to be expunged. Liberals deserved credit for making this cause their own. It was unquestionably one of the most important crusades of American history, and the leaders of the movement, black and white, were nearly all liberals.
They've been dining out on it ever since. Actually, if that were the whole story, it wouldn't rankle so. We might smile indulgently as Old Uncle Henry recounted his freedom riding days for the thirtieth time or Aunt Sally described the terrible faces of the white racists in Selma or Montgomery.
One can even understand, to a point, the nostalgia liberals feel for the 1950s and early 1960s, a time when all of the bad guys had white skins and most of the good guys were dark. Unsubtle minds adore tidy categories: big business bad, unions good; whites bad, blacks good; women truthful, men liars; Native Americans peaceful, European settlers cruel. If liberals had simply reveled in their past virtue, all might have been well. But righteousness has a nasty habit of becoming self-righteousness, and liberals developed a severe case from which they have yet to recover.
This self-righteousness, this endless pursuit of the elation they enjoyed during the civil rights era, has led liberals to the very opposite results they claim to desire. It has poisoned relations between the races unnecessarily and contributed to a series of social pathologies that were entirely avoidable.
Of course, no discussion of crime can begin without the acknowledgment that crimes against black Americans went completely unpunished in many parts of the United States until the middle of the twentieth century. As Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal observed after visiting the American South in the 1930s:
The Negro cannot claim the protection of the police or the courts, and personal vengeance on the part of the Negro usually results in organized retaliation in form of bodily injury (including lynching), home burning or banishment.16
While crimes blacks committed against whites were punished extremely harshly, sometimes even savagely, black on black crime was often ignored by police, prosecutors, and judges, who were uniformly white. In Mississippi, a newspaper editor opined that few blacks were ever prosecuted for killing other blacks because “It's like dog chewing on dog, and the white people are not interested in the matter. Only another dead nigger—that's all.”17
For reasons that may have their roots in this history, blacks have always committed a disproportionate share of violent crimes in America. In 1890 Philadelphia, the murder rate among blacks was five and a half times higher than that among whites.18 Other cities showed similar trends. Though rates of violent crime have always been higher in the United States than in Europe, it was not until the post–civil rights era that violent crime soared.
Between 1960 and 1999, the violent crime rate in the United States increased 226 percent.19 The murder rate increased 122 percent between 1963 and 1980; forcible rape increased by 287 percent, robbery rose by 294 percent, and aggravated assault increased by 215 percent.20 Property crime ballooned as well, with burglary increasing 189 percent, larceny up 159 percent, and auto theft rising by 128 percent during the same period.21 This crime explosion coincided, as noted earlier, with a new leniency in punishment. While the number of violent crimes jumped from 1 million in 1960 to 2.9 million in 1970, the number of prison sentences meted out by the courts declined from 40,000 in 1960 to 37,000 in 1970.22 In other words, for every 100 serious crimes committed in 1960, 3.6 were punished by prison terms in 1960. By 1970, even that paltry figure had declined—to 1.3 prison terms per 100 crimes committed.
Why were so many prosecutors, judges, and juries around the nation suddenly so soft on crime?
Race consciousness was decisive. In the middle 1960s, despite passage of “landmark” civil rights legislation and decisions like Brown v. Board of Education in the Supreme Court, as well as the introduction of affirmative action in hiring, contracting, and college admissions, and much more, black ghettoes in dozens of American cities ignited in the worst racial violence since the Civil War (when, of course, the violence had been directed against blacks by whites). In New York's Harlem on July 16, 1964, a white police officer shot and killed a black youth who had, the officer claimed, come at him with a knife. Two days later, a riot began that eventually would spread to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant and then to Rochester, Philadelphia, and a suburb of Chicago. (In Philadelphia, the first officer attacked was black.)
Television made rioting particularly contagious. People saw the looting and lawlessness in their living rooms. For the criminally inclined, this served as an engraved invitation. In the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles, a routine traffic stop on August 11, 1965, sparked a spree of looting, arson (the expression “Burn, baby, burn” originated here), and violence that lasted six days. Thirty-four people were killed and over a thousand were injured. Hundreds of buildings were razed. Violence rocked Chicago in 1966, and in July 1967, a five-day riot plunged Newark, New Jersey, into chaos. Twenty-six were killed and 1,200 wounded. Detroit endured even worse. The dead numbered forty-three and the wounded topped two thousand.23 Hundreds of cities saw outbursts of rioting during the “long hot summers” of 1965–1967. Tanks patrolled the streets, and curfews were imposed.
It was a frightening and unstable time. Many Americans feared that the country was on the verge of a race war. President Johnson appointed an eleven-member panel known as the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, or the Kerner Commission. The commission's report placed blame squarely on white America for the violence in the ghettoes. “What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto,” the report declared. “White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”24 The causes of the riots, the report continued, were three: racism, powerlessness, and poverty. Explaining the report to Congress, commission member Fred Harris, a senator from Oklahoma, elaborated on a theme that would become foundational to the liberal approach to all issues touching upon race, including crime:
Some people have mistakenly assumed that when the Commission spoke of racism we had in mind just the intense personal animosity many whites express toward Negroes and members of other minority groups. Not at all. We were equally concerned with the sort of racism you cannot see very well if you are white but which Negroes experience every day of their lives—the racism built into the very institutions of American society, the racism which systematically and quite impersonally excludes most Negroes from a decent education, from a livable home, from a chance to set up and run a business, and—more important of all—from a decent, dignified job at a living wage.25
The concept of “institutional racism” was born. The commission recommended huge new expenditures on housing, job training, and education (all of which were forthcoming). Liberal editorialists and others enthusiastically agreed that the riots were a political wake-up call to a racist and callous society. Civil rights leader Bayard Rustin described the riots as a message from Negroes that “they would no longer quietly submit to the deprivation of slum life.”26 As Federal Communications Commission member Nicholas Johnson put it, “A riot is somebody talking. A riot is a man crying out, ‘Listen to me, Mister. There's something I've been trying to tell you and you're not listening.'”27 James Farmer, leader of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), claimed to deplore the rioters, but he immediately qualified his “unqualified” condemnation: “We must remember that the outrage of unemployment and hopelessness that pervades the ghetto remains a prelude to the outrage of the...gasoline bomb.”28 And Martin Luther King said, “Congress has created the atmosphere for these riots.”29
The political interpretation of the riots was always problematic. If the riots were truly an outburst of desperation about long-simmering injustice, why did none of the major riots take place in the South?
While a majority of African Americans would later tell pollsters that they viewed the riots as “largely spontaneous protests against unfair treatment, economic deprivation, or a combination of the two,”30 the initial response of most African Americans to the torching of their neighborhoods and looting of local businesses was distinctly negative. In response to the polling question, “What did you most like about what was going on?” two-thirds of respondents replied “Nothing.”31 Fifty-four percent of African Americans in Detroit believed that the rioters were motivated by “the chance to get things” or “opportunity, lack of sanctions.” And more than two-thirds of African Americans believed strongly that rioters who stole property were “criminals.”32
Nor did African Americans express the bitterness toward America that so many liberals hastily ascribed to them. According to a 1964 survey by MIT professor Gary T. Marx, 81 percent believed life was improving for Negroes, 87 percent agreed that America was worth fighting for, 70 percent thought the day would come when whites would fully accept Negroes, and 59 percent said the police treated Negroes either “fairly well or very well.”33
Still, sympathy and understanding for the lawless dominated America's liberal policy makers. Harry McPherson, an aide to Lyndon Johnson, recalled later that “too often the White House would issue a strong statement against rioters and then follow it with an apologetic ‘Of course, we understand why you rioted.'...It was the ambivalence of the liberal.”34 A commission appointed by California governor Pat Brown came to the same conclusions after looking into the Watts riot. The riots, said the commission, were not the work of criminals or hoodlums but instead grew out of deeply ingrained societal injustice: the high jobless rate, poor housing, and inadequate schools.35
The rioters, meanwhile, were quick to absorb and exploit the new dispensation they detected from the elites. A young rioter in Watts told a reporter, “The white power structure looks on us as hoodlums when actually we are deprived people.”36 But the patterns of violence betrayed no racial or political agenda. Symbols of the “white power structure” like banks, schools, and government offices were left untouched, while plenty of black-owned businesses went up in smoke. African American store owners who tried to defend their property by posting signs like “Soul Brother” in the windows fared no better than other establishments. As a black shopkeeper in Detroit observed, “You were going to get looted no matter what color you were.”37
Abigail and Stephen Thernstrom mapped the progress of Detroit's riot:
The first store under attack in Detroit did not belong to a white, nor to a proprietor regarded as unusually greedy or unpleasant. It was Hardy's Drug Store, which was both black-owned and known to be generous about filling prescriptions on credit. The best black restaurant in the city went up in flames, and the leading black-owned clothing store was looted. Unaccountably, the mob left untouched Azzam's Market, a grocery store owned by an Arab that had been picketed by CORE and other groups two years earlier after the owner's son had shot a black customer to death in a fight. And yet the rioters burned down a black-owned liquor store on the same corner.38
Nor was it accurate to suggest that rioters were motivated by poverty and hopelessness. Watts was not a traditional inner-city ghetto at all, but a neighborhood of individual family homes on suburban-style streets. While by no means affluent, the neighborhood bore no resemblance to the gritty, decaying buildings of other cities' black ghettoes. Jobs were plentiful in the mid-1960s and widely available to blacks. In a survey conducted a year before the riot, the National Urban League had analyzed sixty-eight American cities in terms of quality of life for African Americans. Los Angeles, which included Watts, was ranked in first place.39 Detroit too was far from wretchedness in the 1960s. The economy was healthy, the police department was under enlightened leadership, and the city was integrated. In fact, the first six hours or so of its riot were a joint enterprise between black and white youths. One Detroit youngster was clear-eyed about the nature of the enterprise:
This is not a riot. A lot of people have a misconception of it. This is nothing but...pure lawlessness. People was trying to get what they could get. The police was letting them take it. They wasn't stopping it, so I said it was time for me to get some of those diamonds and watches and rings. It wasn't that I was mad at anyone or angry or trying to get back at the white man. They was having a good time, really enjoying themselves until them fools started shooting.40
Many participants and observers alike noted a “carnival atmosphere” at the start. Lack of police response was a key contributor to the riots' spread. The Detroit episode began early on a Sunday morning when police raided a speakeasy. The crowd began pelting the police with stones. As Edward Banfield observed, “This might not have led to a riot were it not for the fact that at that particular time very few policemen could be mustered.”41 Sunday morning was normally a low crime period and many police were off duty. The looters (and the initial arrests were all for looting, not for setting fires or violence) also knew that the police would not use their guns. Accordingly, the theft went on for several hours while the police were nowhere to be found. This emboldened more and more criminally inclined youths to join the melee. Television offered real- time pictures of looters making off with liquor, television sets, and other merchandise, along with exact street addresses, further advertising the absence of police.
The riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. must also be understood within the context of the time. The spark for those riots was clearly political—but they followed a period in which riots mostly for “fun and profit,” to use Banfield's phrase, had already been embraced, justified, and excused. White liberal America had signaled that black people were expected to riot in order to express themselves. Who could blame them?
Crime as Social Protest
Sympathy toward rioters soon spilled over into sympathy for criminals in general. If people had torched their neighborhoods to protest injustice and oppression, were not quotidian crimes like burglary and mugging also symptoms of the underlying “sickness” of our society? President Lyndon Johnson declared, “Warring on poverty, inadequate housing, and unemployment is warring on crime.”42 Liberal mayors like John V. Lindsay of New York City seemed to believe that criminals were engaged in a colorful form of political commentary. “If we are to eliminate the crime and violence in this country,” he said, “we must eliminate the hopelessness, futility, and alienation from which they spring.”43 Lindsay also made no secret of his contempt for the police. When a police officer was shot and killed in a black neighborhood, Lindsay and his chief of police declined to attend the funeral.44
Lindsay's response to calls for law and order was dismissive:
We cannot turn our ghettoes into armed camps and condone the wanton use of force. This will not ensure the safety of our citizens as they daily walk our cities' streets. But it would heighten tensions and increase the possibility of widespread social disruption....What is dividing Americans so badly from one another is the diagnosis and remedy too many of us seem ready to apply...[calls for law and order asking us] to choose between the random terror of the criminal and the official terror of the state.45
Ramsay Clark, attorney general in the Johnson administration, declared that “punishment as an end in itself is itself a crime in our times....Rehabilitation must be the goal of modern corrections. Every other consideration should be subordinated to it.”46 Clark further argued that “crime among poor blacks...flows clearly and directly from the brutalization and dehumanization of racism, poverty, and injustice. The slow destruction of human dignity caused by white racism is responsible.”47
Political scientist Andrew Hacker was irritated by the public's fear of street crime:
In all probability, muggers take much less from individuals than do corporate, syndicate, and white-collar criminals. Many executives swindle more on their taxes and expense accounts than the average addict steals in a year. Unfortunately, concentrating on street crime provides yet another opportunity for picking on the poor.48
Even if Hacker is correct about the numbers, his view—also described as a focus on “crime in the suites instead of crime in the streets”—is little comfort to the street crime victim. When a stranger sneaks up behind you in a darkened parking lot, you are unlikely to worry that you've been ambushed by an insider trader.
James Vorenberg, a member of Lyndon Johnson's crime commission and a professor of law at Harvard, voiced the prevalent liberal view that crime and violence were not matters for which individuals could be held accountable. Moreover, he displayed the classic error of the liberal worldview—the tendency to perceive criminals as sympathetic representatives of minority and poor communities rather than as predators in those neighborhoods:
To a considerable degree, law enforcement cannot deal with criminal behavior. The most important way in which any mayor could be held responsible for crime is the extent to which he failed to fight for job-training programs, better schools, and decent housing....With the possible exception of how we treat first offenders, I have become convinced that improvements or changes in the police, the courts or correctional agencies are holding actions at best.49
White criminals born in America after 1945 got an incredibly lucky break. They benefited richly from the new softness on crime that was primarily designed for their black associates. And while blacks commit a very disproportionate share of violent crimes in the United States, it has always been the case that whites, with their huge majority of the population, commit more crimes in absolute numbers.
Some of the same policies that created homelessness also contributed to the rising crime rate. When laws regulating public order, such as vagrancy statutes, loitering laws, and indecency statutes, were jettisoned, the resulting atmosphere of disorder invited criminal behavior. James Q. Wilson and George Kelling, in their famous 1982 Atlantic magazine article entitled “Broken Windows,” observed:
If a window in a building is broken and left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. One unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing....
The citizen who fears the ill-smelling drunk, the rowdy teenager, or the importunate beggar is not merely expressing his distaste for unseemly behavior; he is also giving voice to a bit of folk wisdom that happens to be a correct generalization—namely, that serious crime flourishes in areas in which disorderly behavior goes unchecked. The unchecked panhandler is, in effect, the first broken window.50
Graffiti first began to mar America's cities in the mid-1960s. It began with Magic Markers and then progressed to spray paint. By 1973, 63 percent of New York's subway cars, 46 percent of buses, and 50 percent of public housing were “heavily graffitied.”51 Though commuters often could not even see their stops due to graffiti-covered windows, graffiti was welcomed by New York's elites. New York magazine issued “Taki Awards,” prizes for the best subway graffiti of the year. Vincent Cannato, in The Ungovernable City, described the mood:
The award was named for one of the first recognized graffiti artists in the city, identified by his tag, “Taki 183.” According to the magazine, the award was a “recognition of this grand graffiti conquest of the subways.” The award for “station saturation” went to the Broadway and 103rd Street station, where graffiti nearly covered the entire tile wall of the station. Artists like Claes Oldenburg praised graffiti, while New York magazine enlightened its upscale readers as to the differences between “Bronx,” “Manhattan,” “Brooklyn,” and “Combo” styles of graffiti. Richard Goldstein wrote that the most significant thing about graffiti was that “it brought together a whole generation of lower- class kids in an experience which is affirmative and delinquent at the same time.”...Perhaps the most famous defense of graffiti came from the pen of Norman Mailer, who wrote an essay in 1974 [calling graffiti] “the expression of tropical peoples living in a monotonous iron-gray and dull brown brick environment.”52
A 1974 study confirmed what subway riders and ordinary New Yorkers sensed: 40 percent of the fifteen-year-olds arrested for vandalizing public property with graffiti were arrested again within three years for more serious crimes.53
Beginning in May 1965, crime began to be mentioned as among the top issues facing the nation, and blacks were more likely than whites to mention crime and juvenile delinquency as high priorities. But liberal politicians would not alter their approach. James Q. Wilson analyzed the psychology in a 1971 magazine article:
If one grants that tactically a strong position on crime and disorder was [politically] expedient, was there any such position to be taken that was reasonable, morally defensible, and coherent? Or was the only position to take one that was blindly “pro-cop” and that played on sentiments of vengeance and repression? I think there was such a position, defensible by liberal standards, that would have addressed predatory crime, urban violence, and campus disorder; at the time, I found few people who agreed with me. Even to speak of these things, to say nothing of speaking of them critically, was to “turn right,” to be a “backlasher,” to “go after the Wallace vote,” and so on. It almost literally became a mark of one's acceptability as a liberal that one would have nothing to do with any of these issues except to say that the “only” cure for rioting and crime was to “solve the underlying problems of poverty and racism.”...54
Wilson considered himself a liberal at the time, but he was already uneasy about the trajectory of his intellectual confreres. He continued:
Let me recount what I have typically heard as the...“liberal” position: The rise in crime is illusory or exaggerated; whites are using the crime issue as a way of expressing racist sentiments; if there is a real increase in crime, only remedying the underlying social causes with bigger expenditures on poverty programs will make any real difference; the overriding need in dealing with the criminal justice system is to make it fairer, not to make it more effective; and much so-called crime would be eliminated if we did not “over-criminalize” behavior by making public intoxication and the sale of marijuana illegal.55
“A Bleak Landscape”
While liberal editorial boards and legislators were extending sympathy to the rioters and criminals, the majority of law-abiding African Americans and others who lived and worked in the cities paid a steep price. Many small mom and pop businesses serving ghetto neighborhoods closed their doors forever. Ordinary crime soared after the riots. While the crime rate was growing during the first half of the 1960s—it rose 25 percent between 1960 and 1965—it shot up much more steeply after the riots. Between 1965 and 1970, violent crime increased by 82 percent.56 In cities that had experienced riots, shopkeepers reported sharply more shoplifting, vandalism, and burglary—part of a new standard of crime that would not subside until the 1990s.
The new normal for crime—it would be awkward to call elevated crime levels that lasted for three decades a “crime wave”—devastated the inner cities. Entrepreneurs found it difficult to lure workers into the area. Insurance rates climbed to keep pace with liability claims. When merchants passed along these higher costs to customers—a crime surcharge, as it were—customers felt abused. Ugly security gates, annoying buzzers on doors, and dilapidated facilities made shopping in these neighborhoods too unpleasant for any except local customers. The effect was magnified by shop owners who simply stopped repairing their windows after the third or fourth smashing. Plywood-boarded stores became commonplace in the ghetto. Jonathan Bean described the way Detroit's Twelfth Street, once a “bustling thriving community,” became a “bleak landscape of public housing, vacant lots, and windowless ‘party stores.'”57 Many merchants—but more blacks than whites—began to purchase pistols.58
Why would a business owner choose to remain in a neighborhood in which he feared for his life? Even if the risk of property loss was tolerable, what of the risk of murder? Why would a merchant put up with sky-high theft and fire insurance costs? Only those who had no choice or those whose emotional attachment to their neighborhoods withstood the onslaught of the riots remained. The rest packed up and departed. In due course, they were replaced by immigrants, often Koreans, who were less likely than their white predecessors to hire local blacks.
Fear of crime undermined the trust essential for healthy civic life. People became afraid to spend time on the streets and elected to hide in their homes and apartments. Relations between merchants and customers tended to become more adversarial as grocers, dry cleaners, liquor store owners, and others had to keep a wary eye out for shoplifters and armed robbers. Outdoor concerts, street fairs, and other civic activities declined as fear of crime kept people indoors.
High rates of crime also arguably slowed the progress of black/white and black/Asian race relations. Fear of black crime became the shadow darkening an otherwise sunny picture of gradually diminishing antiblack feelings during the decades after the civil rights movement. Progress in white attitudes toward African Americans was dramatic and profound in the post– civil rights era. Only 20 percent of whites told pollsters that black people “lived in their neighborhood” in 1964. By 1994, that number had jumped to 61 percent. Only 18 percent of whites in 1964 said they had black friends; and only 9 percent said they had “good friends” who were black. By 1989, 66 percent of whites claimed to have black friends, and by 1994, 73 percent said blacks were among their “good friends.”59
Similarly, the number of whites who thought it was acceptable for whites and blacks to date rose from 10 percent in 1963 to 65 percent in 1994. And the black/white intermarriage rate, though hard to pin down precisely because of reporting differences among the states, seems to hover around 15 percent. It stood at 0.7 percent in 1963.60
The Truth About Black Crime
But white fear of black crime has stalked the garden party. Just as whites were shedding their old prejudices about black inferiority and belief in the justice of a quasi-apartheid system, they were acquiring a fear of blacks—and fear is a poor companion to friendship.
The liberal response, particularly among liberal blacks, was to argue that white fear was invented, just an excuse to dislike the “other.” Michael Moore, in his book Stupid White Men, argues that white fear of black crime is irrational: “Obviously, no matter how many times their fellow whites make it clear that the white man is the one to fear, it simply fails to register.”61 The data suggest otherwise. Glance at the violent crime arrest rates for 1992. Among every 100,000 white adults, 215.5 were arrested for a violent crime. Among blacks, the number was 1,360.5. Though they represent only 12 percent of the adult population, blacks account for 50 percent of state prison inmates.62 Though a majority of the victims of black criminals are black (a subject that will get more attention in the next section), blacks victimize a fair number of whites as well. In 1993, whites committed 186,000 violent crimes against blacks, while blacks committed 1.29 million violent crimes against whites. If you factor in the sizes of the two populations, writes criminologist John DiIulio, you find that whites are 57.5 times as likely to be the victims of black criminals as blacks are to be the victims of white criminals.63 Abigail and Stephen Thernstrom come to a slightly lower ratio of 50:1.64
Fifty-six percent of all those arrested for murder in the United States in 1995 were black. Again, when you consider that blacks comprise just 12 percent of the population and that the overwhelming majority of murderers are male, you find that just 6 percent of the population is responsible for 56 percent of the murders. The number is actually even smaller than that, because only a portion of young black males are criminals. Blacks also accounted for 60 percent of those arrested for robbery, 42 percent of those arrested for rape, and nearly 40 percent of those arrested for assault.65 In 1993, blacks comprised 44.2 percent of all inmates in jails and prisons and 48.2 percent of federal prisoners.66
These data cannot be wished away, nor are they figments of a racist “backlash” mentality against the civil rights movement. A study by the National Center for Institutions and Alternatives found that 42 percent of young black males in Washington, D.C., were either in prison, on probation, on parole, or otherwise entangled with the criminal justice system.67 In nearby Baltimore, more than 80 percent of those arrested in 1991 were black—though it should be noted that 65 percent of the population in Baltimore is African American, many times higher than the national average.68
White discomfort and suspicion about young blacks are telegraphed in many ways—women crossing the street at the approach of African American males, the studious avoidance of eye contact in iffy neighborhoods, the reflexive locking of car doors in the same areas. All of this, and more, is noticed and resented by blacks. “Why am I constantly treated as if I were a drug addict, a thief, or a thug?” Ellis Cose quotes a young black man complaining in The Rage of the Privileged Class. Many also complain of excessive police attention and of the indignity of being taken for a criminal. It is humiliating for innocent black men to be hassled by police merely because they belong to a group that commits so much crime. But while liberals interpret this indignity to be yet one more insult inflicted by a racist society, a more reasonable interpretation is that people are merely playing the odds. Besides, had liberals not dismantled the criminal sanctions that kept civil peace, the explosion of crime would never have plagued America's cities nor impeded racial comity.
Political correctness cannot force people to unlearn what they know from personal experience. Even Jesse Jackson once acknowledged, in an unguarded moment, the reality that some dare not utter:
There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery—then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.69
As the Jesse Jackson story demonstrates, there is nothing prejudiced about fear. It is merely rational. So is appreciation of and love for blacks who make huge contributions to society. Colin Powell, Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, and the average black person who works as a nurse, or teacher, or FBI agent are neither feared nor hated by other Americans.
But fear of black crime does enter the picture when it comes to hailing a cab. Actor Danny Glover once filed a complaint with New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission after attempting unsuccessfully to hail a cab in Harlem.70 Though Glover has one of the world's sweetest faces (besides being a world-famous celebrity), cab drivers could not see that. They saw only a large black man and decided to err on the side of caution. Was it prejudice? Taxi drivers are among the populations most vulnerable to street crime. Many take race as well as neighborhood and time into account when picking up a fare. Many are also black themselves.
Still, so many black men complained of being pulled over by police in traffic stops that a new term entered the language in the 1990s—an “offense” known as DWB: driving while black. This was related to the controversy that also surfaced at the time over the practice of so-called “racial profiling”—a term that first came to national prominence in connection with New Jersey state troopers who were accused of stopping a disproportionate number of black drivers on the state's highways based solely on race. Then-governor Christine Todd Whitman accepted the verdict against the New Jersey troopers on the flimsiest of evidence, and the state's police were put under orders from the Clinton Justice Department to stop being racists. In 1999, the year before New Jersey entered into a consent decree with the Justice Department, troopers had made 440 “consent searches” on the New Jersey Turnpike. In the six months after the anti–racial profiling campaign heated up, troopers conducted only eleven consent searches. The murder rate in Newark, New Jersey, jumped 65 percent.71 Only several years later did a serious study prove that black drivers were significantly more likely to speed on New Jersey's turnpike than were drivers of other races. Heather MacDonald explained in the City Journal:
We...now know that the troopers were neither dumb nor racist; they were merely doing their jobs. According to the study commissioned by the New Jersey attorney general and leaked first to the New York Times...blacks made up 16 percent of the drivers on the turnpike, and 25 percent of the speeders in the 65-mile-per-hour zones, where profiling complaints are most common. (The study counted only those going more than 15 miles per hour over the speed limit as speeders.) Black drivers speed twice as much as white drivers, and speed at reckless levels even more. Blacks are actually stopped less than their speeding behavior would predict—they are 23 percent of those stopped.72
On the other hand, even some liberals had difficulty accepting the party line that high black arrest rates were the result of racial bias in police forces (all cities had integrated police forces by the 1990s and most large cities had African American mayors and chiefs of police as well), or that high conviction rates were due to the continuing racism of the courts and juries. Liberal columnist Richard Cohen of the Washington Post caused a pretty substantial uproar with a 1986 column titled “Closing the Door on Crime.”
In order to be admitted to certain Washington jewelry stores, customers have to ring a bell. The ring back that opens the door is almost perfunctory. According to the owner of one store, only one type of person does not get admitted: Young black males. The owner says they are the ones who stick him up.
Nearby is a men's clothing shop—upscale, but not really expensive. When young black males enter this store, the sales help are instructed to leave their customers and, in the manner of defensive backs in football, “collapse” on the blacks. Politely, but firmly, they are sort of shooed out of the store. The owner's explanation for this? Young blacks are his shoplifters.
Are these examples of racism? The shopkeepers...are loath to talk about their policies and quick to assert their liberalism, but business, as they say, is business.
As for me, I'm with the store owners....Of course all policies based on generalities have their injustices. A storekeeper might not know that the youths he has refused to admit are theology students—rich ones at that. But then insurance companies had no way of knowing I was not a typical teenage driver. I paid through the nose anyway.73
Who Suffers Most?
As much as black crime hurts whites and damages relations between blacks and whites, it hurts blacks more—particularly poor urban blacks. Because of the influence of race hustlers like Al Sharpton, Rep. Maxine Waters, and former D.C. mayor Marion Barry, the law-abiding black majority is often forgotten in discussions of race and crime. Measures that crack down on black criminals benefit everyone in society, but most of all those closest to them.
Crime in America is mostly an intraracial, not an interracial, matter. Ninety-three percent of black murder victims are killed by other blacks, and 85 percent of the murders committed by blacks are of other blacks.74 Whites committed 66 percent of crimes against other whites between 1993–1998, while blacks were responsible for 17 percent.75
The Justice Department collects statistics about crime victimization. People are asked to report about their own experience with crime. In 1992, 82 percent of black victims identified their attackers as other blacks, and 71 percent of white victims reported that their attackers were also white.76 In 2000, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, 49 percent of murder victims in America were black, 49 percent were white, and 2 percent were of other races.77 Blacks were six times more likely than whites and eight times more likely than those of other races (excluding Native Americans) to be murdered in 1998.78 Federal statistics also show that those earning less than $75,000 per year were robbed at a significantly higher rate than those with higher incomes. And according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Persons of all other races experienced overall property crime, burglary and motor vehicle theft at rates lower than blacks.”79
The crime rate differential was also reflected in surveys about fear. Between 1985 and 1991, the number of Americans who said crime was a major problem in their neighborhoods rose from 5 percent to 7 percent, but among African Americans living in cities, the number rose from 10 percent to 25 percent.80 Twenty percent of black children reported that they feared being attacked going to and from school. Fifty-four percent of black children nationwide worry “a lot of the time” about becoming a crime victim, and 27 percent of black children (compared with 5 percent of white children) think it is “likely” that they will be shot.81 In every survey since 1973, a majority of blacks have answered “yes” to the question, “Would you be afraid to walk alone at night in your neighborhood?”82
While the self-appointed spokesmen for the “black community” (if there is such a thing) rail against the police at every opportunity and stoke resentment of police tactics, black neighborhoods sink deeper into violence and misery. Though the racial provocateurs do their best to obscure it, African Americans do not suffer from too much policing; rather, the opposite is true. In one survey, black residents of central cities were twice as likely as whites to report that they had considered moving due to a lack of police presence in their neighborhoods.83 Another poll found that 73 percent of black respondents favored “three strikes and you're out” laws.84 Former drug czar William Bennett described what he saw of black attitudes toward law enforcement: “I visited more than 100 communities, many of which were located in the worst parts of urban America. And what I heard more than anything else from those in the firing line were pleas for more cops and for more prisons because they wanted more safety.”85
George Kelling, one of the authors of the “broken window” theory of urban decline, met in the late 1990s with public housing residents in a large Midwestern city. William Bratton, former police commissioner of New York, described the session:
Although Kelling preferred to meet in one of their homes, the citizens insisted on meeting in a nearby church. Later they explained that they feared meeting in the development because Kelling was white, and local hoodlums, assuming he represented government or police, would retaliate against them. These representatives were desperate: gang members had taken over the project and made life impossible for residents. The residents, all African-Americans, went on to express their anger with police—not about brutality or abuse, but about the lack of police presence and assertiveness. They believed the police had abandoned them.86
The next evening, Kelling was riding in a police cruiser with a young officer who had patrolled the neighborhood for three years. Gesturing toward the housing project, the officer commented, “Every citizen in that project hates us.”87
Responding to the argument that black people are ambivalent about punishing black criminals, criminologist John J. DiIulio had this to say:
That's not what I hear. I hear the anguished voices of innocent black crime victims in courts where I've listened to case after case involving black-on-black crime. I hear the frustrated black police sergeant tell me, as we cruise in a patrol car, that he can't get from one call to the next fast enough in the neighborhood where he grew up and where some of his elderly relatives live as virtual prisoners in their own homes. I hear the self- righteous black lifer who I'm interviewing in prison say that “the only reason I'm here is that I'm black and poor,” and the black prison counselor snap back in reply, “The only reason you're here is because you killed a boy who was black and poor.”88
In There Are No Children Here, Alex Kotlowitz described the ordinary terrors of life in central Chicago. He sketched the lives of two brothers, Pharoah, fifteen, and Lafayette, thirteen.89 By their middle years, both had seen friends and relatives—including children—shot dead. Both knew what to do when they heard gunfire in their apartment: drop to the floor. If gunfire erupted when they were outside, they were to check which direction the shot came from and then run for cover. Lafayette told Kotlowitz, “If I grow up, I'd like to be a bus driver.”
Elayne Bennett, who runs an abstinence program for inner-city girls called Best Friends, recalled that “all of my girls have been to funerals. None has ever been to a wedding.”90 Crime had made the lives of many inner-city African Americans a nightmare.
Yet do-gooders have consistently interfered with efforts to improve policing in dangerous neighborhoods. Vincent Lane, the former overseer of public housing in Chicago, sought to bring some order to the Robert Taylor Homes, a crime-infested public housing project. He proposed metal detectors to prevent gang members from bringing guns into the buildings, a photo ID system for visitors, and a policy that would have permitted guards and police to perform emergency searches without warrants in response to “barrages of gunfire.” A democratically elected tenants' union supported all of these measures. But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought suit—and succeeded in convincing a judge that the ACLU, and not the tenants' union, represented the interests of the 144,000 residents. The ACLU, naturally, opposed each of Lane's measures.91
New York's Legal Aid Society, along with other liberal groups, kept up a decades-long fight against measures that would make it possible to evict drug dealers from public housing. This amounted, they said, to denying the “rights” of accused drug dealers. What's next, a Legal Aid attorney asked in one such contest during the 1980s, “perhaps shooting them at dawn?”92 Liberal judges put their oars in as well when the Bush I administration attempted to bypass the cumbersome eviction process, with its layers of appeals, and use civil asset forfeiture laws to remove drug dealers. In a 1992 decision, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that any such rule promulgated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development would violate the due process rights of the accused.93
Starting in the early 1990s, every category of crime in the United States began to drop sharply. It wasn't because America had successfully eliminated the so-called “root causes” of crime— poverty, joblessness, and racism. Something else had happened.
Starting in the 1980s, America's criminal justice system began to toughen up. Between 1960 and 1980, the probability that a criminal would face prison for his crime had declined by more than half. Between 1980 and 1997, that likelihood doubled. The average length of time served also began to edge upward after 1980. The National Center for Policy Analysis uses a datum called “expected punishment.” It consists of the probability of arrest, the probability of conviction after an arrest, the probability of imprisonment after conviction and the average or median time served by those sentenced to prison. Using this index, expected punishment was a mere ten days in the early 1980s but rose to twenty-two days by 1995.
California tripled its prison population in the ten years after 1984, and saw its crime rate drop. By 1993, the state had reduced its murder rate by 10.4 percent, burglaries by 43 percent, and rapes by 36 percent. According to the Department of Justice, the tripling of prison inmates between 1975 and 1989 prevented 390,000 murders, rapes, robberies, and assaults in just the year 1989.94
Though intellectuals continued to believe in root causes, and liberal politicians continued to wage war on the police instead of on crime, states and localities began to back away from leniency. While experimenting with alternative sentencing like boot camp, house arrest, and community service, most American states simply got tough and built more prisons. The word on the street was, to paraphrase a movie of the 1970s, that Americans were mad as hell and were not going to take it anymore. Tolerance for the “abuse excuse” waned. The number of prison inmates quadrupled between 1975 and 2002.95 The trend looks like a ski jump. The length of prison sentences also tripled between 1975 and 1989.96 The federal government passed a “truth in sentencing” law requiring certain felons to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. This too increased the average length of prison terms.
New York City under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was the trendsetter, cracking down first on “quality of life” crimes. Giuliani appointed William Bratton as police commissioner in recognition of his outstanding work as chief of the transit police. New York's subways had become the most visible manifestation of the rot that had corroded public life. Every single car in the vast system was defaced, inside and out, by graffiti. The filthy stations, smelling of urine, were haunted by criminals and the homeless. Panhandlers were omnipresent. Wolf packs of young males would sometimes rampage through subway cars as they passed through tunnels, robbing and laughing. An estimated 180,000 scofflaws jumped the turnstiles yearly by 1990, costing the system $65 million in lost revenue and contributing to the Hobbesian atmosphere of the subway system.97 This squalor was the harvest of thirty years of liberalism in one of the world's wealthiest cities.
Bratton put the “broken windows” theory to the test when he became chief of the 4,000- member transit police. He began by strategically stationing plainclothes transit officers where they could easily catch turnstile jumpers. After each crook was collared, he was searched. One in fourteen was found to be carrying an illegal weapon. One in seven had an outstanding warrant on another charge.98 Within one year, apprehensions had increased by 60 percent.
Bratton also deterred subway crime by placing decoys—cops dressed as civilians—at various locations. Some dressed as homeless people, others were women. A former member of the decoy team testified to its success:
Some guys were so afraid of the decoys that I overheard them picking out people they thought were decoy cops. Some of their picks were drunks just sleeping on the train or in the station. I heard guys say, “That's a decoy; leave him alone.”99
The transit police also aggressively pursued graffiti vandals. (It was a sign of the new, more serious era that they were no longer called graffiti “artists.”) Seventy-five of the most active vandals were caught and punished. The subway cars were scrubbed up, and the cleaner atmosphere boosted commuter morale. The loss of passengers that had become a hemorrhage during the 1980s slowed and then reversed. Subway crime declined by two-thirds in four years.100
Mayor Giuliani then offered Bratton the opportunity to implement the same policies on a citywide basis as chief of police. Giuliani's first move was to increase the size of the police force by 7,000 officers. Together with Bratton, he adopted a problem-solving, zero tolerance approach to law enforcement. Whereas other cities were adopting a grab bag of practices loosely described as “community policing,” the New York police department targeted high crime areas. The emphasis on quality of life offenses was continued. Those who played their radios at blasting volumes, those who smoked marijuana or urinated in public, bicyclists who wove dangerously in and out of traffic—all were either ticketed or arrested. The police put an end to the careers of the “squeegee men,” the hustlers who approached cars stopped at intersections, sprayed the windshields with dirty water, drew a rag across the glass, and then demanded payment. In high crime neighborhoods, special teams of officers stopped and frisked suspicious characters. Thousands of illegal guns were discovered and confiscated. And because police were specially trained in interrogation techniques for even casual stops, one thing led to another. Eugene Methvin described the links:
“A to pless dancer arrested for prostitution fingered the bouncer at her Brooklyn club in an unsolved murder. A car thief turned in a fence, who then turned in a father-son gun- dealing team. A parolee arrested for failing to report turned out to have been the only eyewitness to a drug-related murder.”101
The crackdown on quality of life crimes, though it bore rich dividends in the feel and mood of the city, was only the beginning of Giuliani's aggressive anticrime strategy. The police also flooded high crime neighborhoods and dismantled the criminal infrastructure. They not only locked up more criminals, they also closed down chop shops, fences, and drug buying and prostitution rings.102 New York's police department introduced the “Compstat” process, a twice- weekly meeting in which computerized crime maps were brought to bear on high crime areas. William Bratton repeats his comments from a typical departmental meeting:
I want to know why those shootings are still happening in that housing project! What have we done to stop it? Did we hand out fliers to everyone?...Did we run a warrant check on every address at every project, and did we relentlessly pursue those individuals?...What are we doing with parole violators? Of the 964 people on parole in the Seventy-fifth Precinct, do we know the different administrative restrictions on each one, so when we interview them we can hold it over their heads? If not, why?103
The results were stunning. Within five years, overall felonies had declined by 50 percent and murder had decreased by 68 percent. Where the city endured more than 2,600 murders per year in the early 1990s, that number had dropped to fewer than 800 in 1997.104 The worst neighborhoods saw the most dramatic improvement. Between 1993 and 1997 crime fell by 39 percent in Harlem, 42 percent in East New York, and 45 percent in the South Bronx.105
The New York Times was mystified. “Defying Gravity, Inmate Population Climbs” noted a January 1998 headline. The story went on: “The continued divergence between the shrinking crime rate and the rising rate of incarceration raises a series of troublesome questions, said criminologists and law enforcement experts....”106 Troublesome to the Times perhaps. The explanation (as if any were required) was within the article itself. Reporter Fox Butterfield acknowledged that more crimes were being punished and that inmates were serving longer sentences. The Times's confusion arose from simple cause and effect. How could it be that prison populations were increasing if fewer crimes were being committed? Were we suddenly incarcerating jaywalkers and double parkers? Obviously not. There were still, alas, in 1998, many many more crimes than apprehensions or convictions. But as the prisons filled up, two things happened: (1) those behind bars were completely incapacitated from committing new crimes, and (2) word filtered out to the criminal class that the likelihood of serious prison time for crimes had dramatically increased—thus deterring some of those still on the wrong side of the law.
The matter continued to befuddle the New York Times for years. Its pages were graced with half a dozen articles examining the “strange” phenomenon of larger prison populations and lower crime rates. In 2003, the paper editorialized:
Our overflowing jails and prisons come at a high price, in dollars and in wasted lives. The number of men and women behind bars today is four times what it was in the mid-1970s, and it continues to grow. This soaring incarceration rate is not tied to the violent crime rate, which is lower than it was in 1974 [emphasis added]....When violent crime rates were higher, many politicians were afraid to be seen as soft on crime. But now that crime has receded and the public is more worried about taxes and budget deficits, it would not require extraordinary courage for elected officials to do the right thing and scale back our overuse of jails and prison cells.107
Meanwhile, back in the real world, New York's methods were widely copied, and even some cities that did not change tactics saw crime drop during the 1990s. Something was transmitted in the culture. In 2002, 21 million fewer Americans became crime victims than in 1973.108 Half of the decline was attributable to New York alone.
But as a member of New York's Citizens' Crime Commission noted, “The experts will never forgive Bratton and Giuliani for proving them wrong. They want to believe that crime can only be reduced by sweeping social change. But they do have a fallback position: if the police did reduce crime, they did it by illegitimate means.”109
Damn the Police
Rather than celebrate the fact that previously written-off neighborhoods were experiencing a renaissance under Giuliani and that thousands of African American and other minority youngsters who would have been dead or maimed absent the crime drop were alive and well, liberal agitators took aim at the police and the mayor. Applying the principle that “no good deed goes unpunished,” Mayor Giuliani's liberal detractors bore down on him in a multifaceted attack. The U.S. Civil Rights Commission, under the leadership of Mary Frances Berry—the same commission that would later issue a report on the 2000 election alleging, without evidence, that African Americans were prevented from voting in Florida—issued a report on police tactics that accused the department of “racial profiling” in its stop and frisk practices.110 (Perhaps coincidentally, the report was issued during a campaign year in which Giuliani was widely expected to confront Hillary Rodham Clinton in a race for the United States Senate.)
Liberal critics objected that the New York police searched roughly 45,000 people, mostly in minority neighborhoods. Yet those stop and frisks netted thousands of illegal handguns and helped to reduce New York's gun homicides by 75 percent in the six years between 1993 and 1999.111
Mark Green, a former Naderite and Democratic candidate for various offices (he was defeated in the post-Giuliani race for mayor by Michael Bloomberg in 2001), held the post of public advocate in New York City during part of Giuliani's tenure. Not to be outdone by the Civil Rights Commission, he issued a report observing that while more police were being punished under Giuliani than under David Dinkins (Giuliani's predecessor), they were being punished less severely.112
While the Giuliani era was something of a miracle for New York City, there were two episodes that provided ammunition to enemies of the police. The first involved a Haitian immigrant named Abner Louima, who was arrested during a bar fight and taken into police custody, where he was horribly tortured. Officer Justin Volpe took him into a bathroom, beat him, and sodomized him with a plunger handle. He then forced the handle into Louima's mouth, breaking two teeth. Police waited ninety minutes before getting Louima to a hospital, where he was found to have a punctured colon and bladder.113
A more grotesque example of police misconduct would be hard to find, and there was universal disgust about the case throughout the nation. Mayor Giuliani immediately condemned the officers involved (Volpe is now serving a thirty-year sentence) and Louima received an $8.7 million settlement. But for some provocateurs, taking matters further was irresistible. Like a rotund moth to a flame, Reverend Al Sharpton fluttered to Louima's bedside while the latter was still recovering in the hospital. Sharpton encouraged Louima to add the detail that Volpe had shouted “Stupid nigger...learn to respect the police. It's Giuliani time,” while attacking him. Louima later admitted that this part was not true—but not before it had become a bedrock belief in black neighborhoods.114 When asked about this false and inflammatory language, Sharpton changed the subject: “Assault and sodomy is not based on verbiage.”115 No one was denying that the assault was a terrible crime, but by attempting to turn a crime into a racial spark, wasn't Sharpton committing a crime of his own? Not according to Newsweek magazine. The truth of the quotation was not important. “Louima later rescinded that part,” the magazine reported in a story titled “A Mayor Under Siege,” but “the false quote reflected a growing sense in minority neighborhoods that the mayor was responsible for the cops' anything-goes attitude.”116
Two years later, four officers of New York's “street crimes unit” were patrolling a neighborhood that had recently experienced a rash of shootings. They were searching for an armed rapist thought to be responsible for fifty-one attacks. A few minutes past midnight, they spotted a man who fit the description they had been given. Heather MacDonald of City Journal described the scene:
Officers Sean Carroll and Edward McMellon got out of the car, identified themselves as police, and asked the man to stop. Instead, 22-year-old Amadou Diallo, a peddler of bootlegged videos and tube socks on Manhattan's East 14th Street, continued into the vestibule and tried to get inside the building's inner door. Diallo had recently filed a wildly false application for political asylum, claiming to be a Mauritanian victim of torture orphaned by the government security forces. In fact, he was a Guinean with two well-off and living parents. He had reason, therefore, not to welcome encounters with authorities.
The two cops ordered Diallo to come out and show them his hands. Turning away, Diallo reached into his pocket and pulled out what Carroll thought was a gun. “Gun!” Carroll shouted. “He's got a gun!” McMellon, who'd followed Diallo up the stairs, feared he was in point-blank danger and shot at Diallo three times before stepping backward, falling off the steps, and breaking his tailbone. Carroll, seeing McMellon down and thinking he'd been shot, opened fire.
As bullets ricocheted into the street, the other two cops concluded that a firefight was under way. They jumped out of the car and began shooting at the figure crouched in the vestibule. Diallo hadn't fallen prone, according to the cops' lawyers, because the nine- millimeter copper-jacketed bullets passed through him cleanly without bringing him down.
When the shooting stopped, eight to ten seconds later, the officers had fired a total of 41 rounds, 19 of which had hit Diallo, perforating his aorta, spinal cord, lungs, and other organs. Two of the officers had emptied their 16-bullet magazines. When they searched Diallo's body to retrieve his gun, they found only a black wallet and a shattered beeper in a pool of blood. Officer Carroll wept.117
As would any decent human being. It was a tragic mistake. All four officers were hospitalized that night for trauma. Witnesses said they were devastated to discover that they had killed an unarmed man.118 But New York was home to a significant number of people, all liberals of one stripe or another, for whom the success of the city's conservative crime-fighting philosophy was an affront. The New York Times, which had been fighting a low-intensity battle against the crime crackdown, shifted avidly into overdrive, devoting an average of three stories per day to the case in the two months after the shooting and fanning the embers of racial distrust wherever possible.119 The case, according to the Times, was not an example of a terrible mistake; it was the “dark underside” of the war on crime. Yes, the crime rate had dropped in the city, the Times reiterated again and again, but only at the expense of the civil liberties of all minority New Yorkers. “Minorities have sent City Hall a clear message,” proclaimed a Times editorial, “that no one in their neighborhoods should be forced to exchange the fear of crime for a fear of police.”120
The Reverend Al Sharpton staged daily demonstrations, and celebrities like Susan Sarandon, former mayor Ed Koch, and NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume lined up to be arrested for the cameras. Protesters carried signs comparing Giuliani to Hitler. Congressman John Conyers of Michigan decried New York “as way out in front in police brutality.”121 Jesse Jackson compared Diallo's shooting to the lynching of Emmett Till. (Till was the teenager who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 for whistling at a white woman.) Ira Glasser of the ACLU chimed in that Diallo had been a victim of “Jim Crow justice.”122
Never mind that shootings of civilians by police had declined during the 1990s to roughly half what they had been in 1985.123 Miami, Philadelphia, and especially Washington, D.C. (whose police force is majority black), have much higher rates of fatal police shootings than does New York.124
The Louima and Diallo cases demonstrated that many liberals, though they claim to be do- gooders, are prepared to undermine the very progress that improves life for the poor and minorities. The reduction of crime in 1990s was the best thing to happen to poor people in this country in more than a generation. Not only were actual lives saved that would surely otherwise have been lost—mostly among young people—but whole neighborhoods that had been thought beyond saving began to blossom back to life. If the murder rate prevailing in 1993 had remained unchanged, 2,299 more black New Yorkers and 1,842 Hispanic New Yorkers would have died.125 In the Buena-Clinton neighborhood in Garden Grove, California, once called “Orange County's worst slum,” the crime rate fell by half during the 1990s. Whereas two decades ago, residents were sleeping on floors to avoid gunshots from rival gangs, today they can shop in new stores, enjoy a new park, and live in improved housing.126 A similar pattern has been visible in cities around the nation.
But this improvement—so dramatic and so welcome for the poor—has been resisted and resented by liberals. It has upended their cherished idea that poverty causes crime. In fact, as the data from the past decade clarify, there is no evidence that poverty causes crime but a great deal of evidence that crime causes poverty. By aligning themselves against the police, against commonsense tactics like stop and frisk, against metal detectors in public housing, against swift and certain punishment, and for a broad array of legal protections for accused criminals, liberals helped to aggrieve the lives of the poor and society as a whole.
|Ch. 1||Judge not - how liberalism created the crime wave||1|
|Ch. 2||Stoking fear and hatred in the name of racial sensitivity||39|
|Ch. 3||The promise of compassion : the reality of degradation through welfare||87|
|Ch. 4||Rewarding the worst families and discouraging the best||121|
|Ch. 5||The "grate" society - how liberalism created homelessness||163|
|Ch. 6||The liberal war on rigor and patriotism in America's classrooms||189|
Posted May 1, 2005
MONA CHAREN IS REALLY A VERY WELL RESEARCHED WRITER. IN HER BOOK ' DO GOODERS' IT IS ABOUT HOW THE LIBERALS ARE TRYING TO GIVE THE APPEARENCE OF HELPING OTHERS BUT IN REALITY THEY ARE IN IT TO HELP THERE OWN AGENDA. THIS PAGE TURNER IS A REALLY WONDERFUL PUBLICATION . THIS WOULD MAKE A REALLY GREAT GIFT FOR YOUR PARENTS,A NICE GRADUATION,OR POSSIBLY A BIRTHDAY.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 26, 2013
No text was provided for this review.