Black Lives Matter II. The Ferguson Effect


A recent post, “Black Lives Matter,” discusses the perhaps surprising fact, that the black-white life expectancy gap has been decreasing in recent years.  One aspect of this trend is that the death rate by homicide for blacks has been falling faster than it has been for whites. This may be about to change.
As recently reported by Heather MacDonald in the Wall Street Journal, “The Nationwide Crime Wave Is Building,” since Michael Brown was shot and killed by a policeman in Ferguson MO in August 2014, cops are disengaging from discretionary enforcement activity especially in big cities.
Capture4This “Ferguson Effect” is likely responsible for rising violence in urban areas.  For example:

  • Homicides increased 9% in the largest 63 cities in the first quarter of 2016.
  • These increases are on top of last year’s 17% rise in homicides in the 56 biggest U.S. cities, with heavily black cities showing murder spikes above 60%.
  • A study of gun violence in Baltimore showed an inverse correlation with proactive drug arrests. When Baltimore cops virtually stopped making drug arrests last year after the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, shootings soared.
  • In Chicago, where pedestrian stops have fallen nearly 90%, homicides this year are up 60% compared with the same period last year.

As Ms. MacDonald notes, “If a powerful segment of society sends the message that proactive policing is bigoted, the cops will eventually do less of it. Ultimately, denial of the Ferguson effect is driven by a refusal to acknowledge the connection between proactive policing and public safety.”
Conclusion: If “Black Lives Matter” is going to be more than a slogan, it has to be tied in with sensible policies to reduce violent crime.  Demonizing law enforcement is exactly the wrong way to make things better.

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