Tried and true responses to crime

It’s a sadly ironic cycle when tried and true crime suppression efforts are implemented with success only to be ignored, or worse yet rejected over time, leading to the next wave of crime. 

Proactive policing, swift and sure apprehension of offenders, a focus on low level offenses that create lawless environments, incapacitating offenders through incarceration, firm prosecution, and stern sentencing — these measures have all passed the test of time for suppressing criminal activity and providing neighborhoods and cities the sense of safety and lawful order needed for their citizens to thrive.

Unfortunately, these measures routinely come under fire by progressives for being overly punitive, short-term solutions that allegedly impact people of color disparately. A host of progressive alternatives replace these proven methods, pushing back on enforcement, firm prosecution, and incarceration, only to see the cycle of crime repeat over time.

Minnesota’s experiences offer proof of this cycle. Crimes of violence soared in the mid 1990s largely the result of the proliferation of armed gangs and their drug trade.  Minnesota’s criminal justice system was resolute in it’s use of aggressive, proactive policing coupled with firm prosecution and sentencing practices that disrupted criminal activity by incapacitating those committing crime and deterring those who may have considered it.  Read more about this crime surge and our response here.

The crime rate in Minnesota began a 22-year decline, and the state and our major cities experienced relative peace and an environment where people could thrive. However, by the mid 2010’s progressive calls of over policing, over-incarceration, and racial disparate outcomes led to changes in policy.

Less enforcement, more pre-trial release, more departures from sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum sentences all began to take hold. Minnesota’s imprisonment rate began dropping as a result, bottoming out at the third lowest in the country by 2021, above only Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

As a result, by 2018 Minnesota began to see an uptick in crime, well before the rest of the nation, and well before the events of 2020. Then, the civil unrest and defund the police movement following the death of George Floyd led to even more pushback against the traditional methods of suppressing crime which have proven to be successful.

Criminals were emboldened and our police became demoralized due to a lack of support. The result was an unprecedented rise in crime, especially violent crime, leading Minnesota to exceed the national average in Part 1 crime rates for the first time in history. 

This pattern of utilizing then rejecting tried and true crime suppression methods is described in a recent article in City Journal, entitled “The Enduring Solution to Crime.”  The authors, Rafael Mangual and Barry Latzer, appropriately conclude that

“…the oft-repeated claim that we cannot arrest, prosecute, or incarcerate ourselves out of a crime problem is nonsense,” 

and as such they recommend,

“…we must reject the notion that policies intended to solve perennial, unyielding social problems can ever replace the real solutions to crime.” 

The knowledge and tactics to suppress crime exist.  Our challenge is to maintain the will to use them.