Letters to the Editor
Although I appreciate the passion of Dr. Hernandez’s recent letter, attributing crime to the policies of the Democratic Party is misleading at best and downright incorrect at its worst. As indicated in a recent New York Times article by German Lopez, “Crime is a complicated issue, touching on personal disputes, the economy, social services and really, almost every other aspect of society. Only a few factors are significant enough to make a big difference by themselves—and partisanship is not one of them.” Dr. Hernandez blames Democrats for a host of issues: the supposed rise in crime; being soft on rioters; promoting the notion of defunding the police and finally, claiming that because of Democrats, shoplifting is no longer a prosecutable crime. None of this is true.
Crime overall is actually declining in American cities, even the Democratic ones, although admittedly still higher than it was before COVID-19. (By the way, New Jersey, ostensibly a blue state, is in the top five of the lowest crime rates in the nation, although as we will see in a moment statistics about crime are fraught with uncertainty.)
Dr. Hernandez asserts that because riots and other crimes occur in cities where the Democratic Party is strong, then it must be the Democratic policies that are at fault (although I am not sure if he is referring to the leadership of the cities or the Democratic voters in them as well or some combination.)
The FBI actually warned against drawing conclusions from raw data without examining the demographic and cultural factors in each city. Relying on only the raw data, they concluded, leads to a “questionable conclusion.” The statement continued: “These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, tribal area or region. Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study.”
Dr. Hernandez focuses on some specifics as well, suggesting that shoplifting is no longer a crime in many cities. It is simply not true. In some jurisdictions, the crime of shoplifting was moved from the category of felony to that of misdemeanor, but it remains a prosecutable crime. In most jurisdictions, shoplifting is often treated as a misdemeanor anyway.
Dr. Hernandez also attributed claims to Democrats that they did not condemn violent protests, particularly in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder. My research showed that many Democrats, including Joe Biden, condemned violent acts during protests, whether it was attributed to Black Lives Matters protesters, so-called, antifa or say, the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
As far as protests in general, the President stated and I paraphrase, that burning down communities and needless destruction is not acceptable. Violence that endangers lives is not acceptable. Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not acceptable.
In Chicago, after protesters clashed with police turned violent, then Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, condemned the actions of the protesters, saying there is no justification for violence and such actions were not First Amendment protected speech.
And no, the Democrats are not in favor of “defunding the police,” as he stated, especially if you define that phrase in the typical sense as eliminating any local budget for law enforcement. Biden’s published criminal justice plan called for a $300 million investment in community policing efforts—including the hiring of more officers.
He did say that some funding can be redirected to social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing. Biden also emphasized that decisions about funding levels should be made by local communities.
To conclude, when making claims about any issues, relying on research from reliable sources matters and nuance in analysis matters as well. I wish Dr. Hernandez had dug into these issues more deeply before writing his letter.