- The Washington Times - Friday, July 1, 2022

The crime wave across the U.S. exploded ahead of the notoriously violent Fourth of July weekend.

Major cities are bracing for the long weekend after a string of violent crimes over the past week, including in neighborhoods once considered safe.

In Chicago, an early morning shooting on Friday in the city’s downtown left two people dead and three others wounded. The incident marked the second shooting in as many months in the Loop, an iconic area of Chicago lined with skyscrapers and normally bustling with the nine-to-five crowd.

Homicides in the police district where the shooting took place are up 100% over last year, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Shootings are up 24%.

In Newark, New Jersey, nine people were shot, including a teenager, in a drive-by shooting Thursday night outside a bodega.

In eastern Kentucky, two police officers were killed when a man opened fire on them as they attempted to serve an arrest warrant on Thursday night.

A  6-year-old girl and a man were shot at a home in a quiet Maryland neighborhood outside Washington this week. 

Earlier this week a 20-year-old woman pushing a stroller was shot at point-blank range in the head in New York’s notoriously wealthy Upper East Side.

The shocking incidents occurred amid a nationwide rise in crime, which has become a campaign issue that is expected to hurt Democrats in the midterm elections.

And violence and crime typically increase in the summer months.

“It’s going to be a tough summer,” said Betsy Brantner Smith, a retired police sergeant who now serves as the spokeswoman for the National Police Association.

Crime tends to spike in the summer months, particularly over long weekends, when more people are outside and parents and their children take time away from work and school. But Ms. Brantner Smith said the trend has been exacerbated in recent years, said Ms. Brantner Smith.

“This is going to be the third Fourth of July weekend in a post-George Floyd America,” she said. “What we are seeing is these historic, in some areas, rises in crime. And it’s not just violent crime. It’s retail crime in some areas. We’re seeing just a huge increase in what they used to call broken windows crimes.”

Major crimes in New York City, which include murder, assault, robbery and other serious offenses, were up 29% for the week spanning June 20 through June 26 above the same period last year, and 38% year over year. Grand larceny is up 50% year to date above 2021 figures.

New York City’s murder rate remained unchanged for the same week in June last year and is down slightly (13%) year to date.

In Chicago, major crimes were up 33% for the same week over last year and 34% year over year. Theft in Chicago has spiked at 65% above last year’s figures and 70% above 2020.

Chicago witnessed 20 murders from June 20 through June 26, after suffering 20 murders the previous week. There have been 304 murders in Chicago as of late June, down 10% year over year.

Other cities have shown rising crime rates over recent years.

In San Francisco, major crimes are up 7% year to date over the same period last year. Crime rose by 13.7% in the city in all of 2021 compared to 2020.

In Seattle, overall crime increased by 10% in 2021 compared to the prior year. Violent crime increased by 20%.

The crime rates are not just rising in what are considered bad neighborhoods, Ms. Brantner Smith said. Crimes are also skyrocketing in traditionally safe neighborhoods in cities, suburbs and rural areas.

“It’s not just traditionally high crime areas, but it’s bleeding into, quote-unquote, nicer areas of cities and it’s bleeding into suburbs,” she said. “It’s even happening in some rural areas.”

“Safety in the United States for our citizens is becoming regional,” she said. “And that’s wrong.”

Ms. Brantner Smith says the trend is a direct result of anti-police sentiment in the wake of the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police combined with liberal prosecutors and other elected officials’ refusal to hold criminals accountable.

The vilification of officers and calls to defund police by left-leaning officials have continued to leave their mark as evidenced by new Fraternal Order of Police figures on attacks against police.

There have been 178 officers shot in the line of duty thus far in 2022 representing a 19% increase year to date over last year, according to a report released Friday.

Nearly a third of the victims were shot in ambush-style attacks. There have been 35 ambush-style attacks thus far in 2022, resulting in 57 officers shot of whom 12 were killed.

The numbers are alarming, according to Patrick Yoes, the national president of the Fraternal Order of Police.

“Make no mistake — we are experiencing a real crisis with the level of violence directed at law enforcement officers,” Mr. Yoes said. “It is unlike anything I’ve seen in my 36 years of law enforcement.”

Shootings against police officers have risen steadily in recent years. Last year 346 officers were shot, killing 63 in the line of duty.

“Last year was one of the most dangerous years for law enforcement, with more officers shot in the line of duty than any other since the National Fraternal Order of Police began recording this data,” Mr. Yoes said.

Last year’s figures represented a 19% increase over 2020. This year’s figures are on track to outpace 2021.

Arizona, Texas and Kentucky lead the nation as the states with most officers shot in the line of duty. So far this year, 18 officers have been shot in Arizona, 15 in Texas and 12 in Kentucky.

Beyond the anti-police rhetoric, critics warn that liberal prosecutors’ also are refusing to hold criminals accountable.

“What we’re seeing is people are getting arrested time and time and time and time again, and they either don’t get punished at all,” Ms. Brantner Smith said. “They get let out and they don’t ever come to court, or their punishments are very minimal, and they’re left to re-offend.”

Democrats have faced increasing blowback from voters as crime rates have skyrocketed in cities nationwide.

Earlier this month, voters in San Francisco voted to recall progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin by a 20-point margin in response to Mr. Boudin’s soft-handed approach to rising crime in the city.

In Los Angeles, law-and-order mayoral candidate Rick Caruso advanced to a runoff against Rep. Karen Bass, California Democrat, to replace term-limited incumbent Eric Garcetti.

President Biden said that the results sent a message that voters want elected officials to take a tough stance on crime, and called on local leaders to put federal funds to use “to hire police officers and reform their police departments.”

After months of calls by some in the Democratic Party to defund the police, moderates complained that the message turned off voters.

Mr. Biden has taken a hit in polling over his handling of crime. And with the midterm elections quickly approaching, lawmakers are scrambling to shed their soft-on-crime label.

In February, Mr. Biden took a firm stance against the defund-the-police movement during his visit to New York City. At the time, the city was reeling from the recent loss of two officers shot and killed while responding to a domestic violence call.

But Ms. Brantner Smith says when it comes to crime, politicians are “speaking out of both sides of their mouths”

“Policing should not be politicized,” she said. “I think the Democrats are realizing that the defund the police and the anti-police, pro-criminal atmosphere in this country is not winning them any votes.”

She also took Republicans to task, saying they could do more to dispel “the false narrative that American law enforcement is racist and that American law enforcement officers are somehow a danger to our community.”

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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