A recent Cal Berkeley IGS poll showed that a majority of California voters (51%) give Governor Gavin Newsom a “poor/very poor” rating on his performance on crime and public safety issues. This is up 16 percentage points from 2020. The only issue where Newsom fairs worse with those polled is his handling of homelessness where he receives a 66% poor/very poor rating. There is unquestionably a link between these two hot button issues. And while Newsom’s favorability ratings have slumped with Californians over a range of issues, his prospects for reelection still remain strong as of now.
Yet, Newsom is not the only politician bearing the brunt of the public’s concern and outrage over escalating crime. It is true for other noteworthy California office holders, as well as numerous elected officials—District Attorneys in particular– across the United States. And with good reason, the voting public’s frustration and anger over crime is centered on where that crime is taking place–larger metropolitan jurisdictions. And almost without exception these are deeply Blue jurisdictions with Democrats at the helm.
With recall and Congressional mid-term elections looming in 2022, Democrat Party apparatchiks and their allies in the Mainstream Media have justifiable fears ranging from mild concern to outright apoplexy that catastrophic electoral losses lie ahead. Republicans are seizing escalating crime as one of their top issues and laying the blame at the feet of Democrats, claiming it is Liberal attitudes and policies toward criminals that has resulted in our lesser than safe streets.
Actual crime statistics are mixed. California’s violent crime rate has remained somewhat steady as of late with crimes such as rape and robberies down, but homicides and aggravated assaults precipitously up. And looking specifically at the statistics from major cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Diego, the violent crime numbers are trending upward and drive the overall state statistics. This trend mirrors those being experienced in other large cities across the U.S.
In the spirit of never letting a crisis go to waste, assigning blame to gain political advantage was all but a sure thing. Republican operatives across the nation see a clear political advantage over escalating crime. And they should. Consider:
- In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, activist groups such as Black Lives Matter and Black Visions Collective popularized the phrase Defund the Police. This caught on across the nation in urban areas and was adopted by many progressive politicians. And while in retrospect many claimed Defund the Police really just meant a reallocation of funds to non-policing forms of public safety, many jurisdictions such as Minneapolis, New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Portland, Baltimore, Austin, Milwaukee, San Francisco, and Los Angeles actually cut their police budgets. With the spike in crime the term Defund the Police—in whatever connotation intended– has become an anchor around the necks of progressive politicians. Seeing the resultant crime increases and political liability, many of these jurisdictions are now refunding or considering a refunding of their police departments.
- Elected officials—District Attorneys in particular—across the nation are feeling the heat for advocating and implementing new approaches to policing, arrests, bail requirements, prosecutions, sentencing, and early releases from prison that Republicans have labeled pro-criminal and point to as a primary reason for the increase in crime. The most well-known chief prosecutors of this ilk are George Gascón in Los Angeles, Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, Kim Foxx in Chicago, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Marilyn Mosby in Baltimore, Kimberly Gardner in St. Louis, and Rachael Rollins in Boston. In California this has led to the recall effort against Gascón which is still collecting petition signatures, and the recall election of Boudin which is slated for June 7.
- It’s hard to avoid fairly prominent and regular media coverage of the outright lawlessness evidently being permitted to continue in our cities and suburbs. Organized gangs are targeting perceived rich victims and following them to their homes and vehicles for assaults and robberies. Protests in the wake of the George Floyd homicide far too often turned violent with vandalism, looting, assaults as a regular visage in the media. Cities burned and to many it appeared deliberately unchecked by law enforcement. So-called smash and grab organized crimes are on the rise and are being seen in both urban and suburban areas. Shoplifting has gone viral with perpetrators knowing their crimes will be allowed with no repercussions. Many businesses are being forced to close or relocate as a result. Felons back out on the street due to bail reform or early release programs are committing additional crimes—the most recent of which associated with the mass shooting in Sacramento that left six dead.
And while the mainstream media has in fact broadcasted so much of the increase in criminality, there are many in the mainstream media, recognizing the potential detriment to Democrat office holders and their progressive views, who are desperately trying to redirect voter anger elsewhere. Also consider:
- The underlying premise of recent front page article in the San Francisco Chronicle insinuates that the cause in the spike in crime in San Francisco centers around the pandemic:
“The data shows that crime shifted dramatically during the pandemic. But now that
San Francisco is returning to pre-pandemic behavior, so are its crime rates”
The article also points out—buried in a back page continuation—that the police data examined was limited to reported crime, “and thus might not accurately measure crime in the city.”
- With recall petitions actively being circulated for Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, The L.A. Times ran with an article, also earlier this month, asserting that a perceived spike in crime had little to do with the D.A., as violent crime prosecutions have remained relatively unchanged since before Gascón took office. Rather, it was the police that was less successful in apprehending violent criminals. The article does later concede that prosecutions for misdemeanor crimes such as disturbing the peace, drug possession, public intoxication, shoplifting and other petty theft have fallen by 50%. But aren’t these the crimes encountered by the public and business owners on a daily basis that directly affect quality of life and have placed the embattled District Attorney, and others like him in the electoral predicament with which they now find themselves?
- Finally, and perhaps most audaciously, writing for the L.A. Times, Erika Smith alleges that the spike in crime is attributable to “income inequality.”
“Not all economic desperation leads to crime, of course. But are we really surprised that,
according to the LAPD, a small subset of poor people from South L.A. have brazenly turned
to armed robberies to even the score?”
“Even the score?” Organized gangs are targeting and following perceived to be wealthy citizens to their cars and homes only to physically assault them, rob them of their possessions, and in isolated cases murder them, and this is written off as evening the score? Good grief.
Regardless of the spin attempting to control the narrative on who or what is to blame for the increase in crime in our cities—or whether crime rates have increased at all—-the final political arbiters will be the voting public and what they perceive to be the truth on crime. That will be seen soon enough.
Yet, with so many Democrat-run jurisdictions backtracking on their Defund the Police initiatives, which has pitted activist progressives against moderate Democrats here in California and in other U.S. cities, it is hard to argue against the ongoing story of crime—in addition to other prominent issues– hampering the efforts of Democrats running for election in 2022 and beyond.
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