Anti-Police Protests Increase Violent Crime

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Many people are speculative about whether protests against police have resulted in a rise of violent crime since the infuriating killing of Michael Brown in 2014.

Heather Mac Donald, City Journal editor, once called this idea the Ferguson Effect. It ties protests to higher violent crime rates which have reversed many of the efforts law enforcement made in the past decades.

Two new studies, one from two years ago and one from a few years ago, have shown that the Ferguson Effect is real. These studies show that protests against police officers following officer-involved shootings resulted in a decrease in police proactivity, which allowed for an increase in violent crime.

The latest study published in the February 2022 issue of the Journal of Public Economics shows that high-profile killings have reduced police activity.

Researchers Cheng Cheng, Wei Long, and others looked at the statistics in St. Louis after Brown’s death. Their findings shouldn’t be surprising to anyone.

They manage to find surprising and unexpected results. Self-initiated arrests dropped 62 percent in the immediate wake of Brown’s passing. The declines can be seen in nine of the 11 categories of self-initiated activities, including pedestrian checks (76%) and foot patrol (82%). The decline in arrests is more concentrated among misdemeanors (more discretionary than felonies), and among blacks (rather than whites). The decline in police activity continued for at least two more years. The city also saw an increase in homicides and aggravated assaults during that time.

Cheng and Long expanded their research to include more cities. They found that black-resident cities had a lower arrest rate, and an increase in homicides.

Similar findings were found in the other study, which was published Sept. 2019.

Premkumar discovered that police departments experienced significant decreases in the number of arrests for misdemeanor offenses, but no change in property and violent crimes. The murders and robberies saw a slight increase of between 10% and 17%, while the theft rate remained steady.

It is worth noting, however, that Premkumar published his study prior to the George Floyd murder and the rise in anti-police activities that followed.

These two studies show that law enforcement becomes more cautious and less impulsive when there is a major shooting or other incident involving a cop in a city. Police departments allow citizens to get away with minor crimes in fear of being ridiculed and further protest. Crime, even violent, rises as a result.

This cycle will continue as long as Black Lives Matter and Antifa and other far-left groups are willing to take advantage of an officer who shoots or kills someone. It’s evident in rising murder rates in major cities. And when the Ferguson Effect is combined with policies that encourage crime, this situation won’t get any better.

To make a change, the movement to defund police does not need to touch any budget line item. The Ferguson Effect shows that the only thing left can do to undermine law enforcement is to raise protests and increase scrutiny after an incident. This makes it even harder for police officers to do their job.