- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2023

When mayors from the nation’s biggest cities gathered for a conference in Washington, they boasted about having a handle on the violent crime crisis that’s exploded on their watch.

They are now on course to make their streets safer, they said.

The mayors, who are almost all Democrats, placed the blame for the runaway violence and lawlessness in their communities on the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the availability of guns.

“Generally, it’s gun violence. Crime is about the same as it was or a little bit less. But gun violence is terrible,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, told The Washington Times. “I owned a gun in the 1990s. I had a six-shot revolver and a permit to carry, and you can do damage with a six-shot revolver.”

He added, “Our crime scenes are 30, 40, 50, 100 shells with semi-automatic weapons that fire like machine guns. It’s insane. And there’s no reason in the world why any of that should be available to any American.”

Critics point to other causes, namely liberal district attorneys and city leaders’ soft-on-crime policies.

In Philadelphia, property crimes have skyrocketed by nearly 30%. Through the last week of December, reports of robberies with guns were up 22% compared with the same period last year. Other types of robberies were up roughly 12%. 

Overall, violent crime increased by roughly 2% but homicides dropped by about 9%. Lower-level property crimes increased by more than 29%.

At the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington this week, the talk was as much about hiring more social workers than more cops on the beat.

Jackson, Mississippi, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba said the rise in crime in his city came primarily from the youngest demographic.

“For every new officer we hire, we want to bring on social workers to address the multitude of challenges that are taking place within our communities,” said Mr. Lumumba, a Democrat.

Across the U.S., homicide rates declined in 2022, but violent crimes such as rape, robbery and assault stayed remarkably higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic, The Washington Times found in a review of data from police departments across the country.

President Biden on Monday called for police officers to be retrained not to use deadly force even when they have to fire their service weapons.

He made the remark during the National Action Network’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day breakfast where he also criticized Senate Republicans for blocking a bill in 2021 that would have limited the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers.

“We have to retrain cops,” Mr. Biden said. “Why should you always shoot with deadly force? The fact is if you need to use your weapon, you don’t have to do that.”

Mr. Lumumba was on the same page with the president, saying he thought that retraining was “critical.”

“I think that any idea or notion of public safety has to incorporate community trust, and those types of investments in training, ensure that we have a better product in what we’re providing in the vein of public safety,” he said. “So, I’m certainly in support of additional training.”

Police departments across the country are struggling to recruit and retain officers and often find themselves competing with one another to attract recruits.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, said he has “committed to 300 new officers over the course of three years.”

“That’ll get us back to where we need to be. We’re actually doing really well in terms of recruiting. We recruited 71 new officers this year,” he said. “And we had our largest class just a few weeks ago that we’ve seen in several years, we have other individuals in the pipeline.”

Cities in California also have experienced a spike in violent crime. According to the San Diego Association of Governments, violent crime in 2022 reached its highest level since 2012 and marked a 2% increase from the previous year. At the same time, over 230 police officers left the department, a 52% increase from 2021 and the most in more than a decade.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Republican who is currently the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, announced Thursday that he will lead a group of mayors on a 10-city tour to share insights about improving law enforcement and public safety.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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