Silence the Alarm
And in response, police geared up for war. It had to stop, we were told, And they were right. It was bad.
If everyone can take five from fighting over the elimination of guns and institutionalizing anyone who wears stripes with plaids, there's a bit of news. From the New York Times:
Murders in New York have dropped to their lowest level in over 40 years, city officials announced on Friday, even as overall crimes increased slightly because of a rise in thefts — a phenomenon based solely on robberies of iPhones and other Apple devices.
There were 414 recorded homicides so far in 2012, compared with 515 for the same period in 2011, city officials said. That is a striking decline from murder totals in the low-2,000s that were common in the early 1990s, and is also below the record low: 471, set in 2009.
Four hundred and fourteen murders in New York in 2012. And 14 of those didn't happen in 2012, but were from earlier years but added in as they were now classified as murders. So the real number is 400. Not to suggest that any murder is inconsequential, but there was a war on murder, it's been won. Even Mayor Bloomberg says so.
“The essence of civilization is that you can walk down the street without having to look over your shoulder,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.
A nice sentiment, but not entirely accurate.
He attributed the low murder rate to the department’s controversial practice of “stop, question and frisk,” in which people are stopped on the street and questioned by officers, and aggressive hot-spot policing, in which officers are deployed to areas with crime spikes.
So people still have to look over their shoulder, but not for fear of the murderer lurking behind them, but the cop.
When staring into a void, it's easy to claim it's because of whatever governmental initiatives are in place at the moment. Stop and frisk, where about 700,000 people are stopped, because a police officer decided to do so, resulting in the seizure of a grand total 780 guns (do the math), was justified by the need to rid the streets of guns, and ridding the streets of guns was justified to stop the epidemic of killings.
While basic logic reminds us that correlation does not prove causation, let's allow Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly their moment in the sun. They did it. Hooray. The number of murders is the lowest since 1963, when the reliability of crime stats were improved. It may be longer. We should build a statue of these guys, they did such a fabulous job.
But it's done. They did it, and now it's done. Yet the "essence of civilization" remains elusive for New Yorkers, not because of the lack of crime but the extreme tactics of the police.
Cries following recent events to rid our world of weapons are being heard far and wide, as justification for yet another war and eradication of rights. It has to be done, proponents say, because it is unacceptable that bad things happen. Alarms are going off across the nation, and Mayor Bloomberg is among the loudest voices demanding a gunless world.
Yet there were only 400 murders in New York.
One argument in favor of maintaining the status quo is to point to this significant success and contend that by going back to the days when police weren't armed for war and empowered to stop anyone, anytime on a whim, we risk a return to the days when 2000 or more murders a year were the norm. It's not a good argument for anyone remotely knowledgeable about the streets of the City, but to those inclined to adore fear, it might suffice.
Fortunately, the Mayor doesn't have to rely on logical fallacies to maintain a standing army in Manhattan, larger and better armed than small nations, and given sweeping powers that would make marshall law seem pointless. He has the outlier, the freak tragedy, that saddens our front page. "See," law enforcement sycophants scream. "Do you want 20 first graders murdered in Newtown? Do you?"
No. Of course not, but then I also don't want 700,000 people, including the occasional judge and city councilman, to forfeit their constitutional rights either. I embrace the good mayor's words, that the essence of civilization is to be able to walk down the street without looking over one's shoulder. Whether that refers to criminals or cops doesn't matter.
There were only 400 murders in New York this year, and yet we still can't walk down the street without looking over our shoulder because of the police. That is not the essence of civilization, but a tactic that was wrong before and wholly unjustified now. It's time to silence the alarm.