A Black police chief in Oakland, California, is speaking out against the city for defunding his department’s budget by more than $17 million, even as crime has increased and the murder rate has almost doubled from a year ago.
“Today, we find ourselves in a crisis,” Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said at a recent press conference. Oakland’s murder rate has escalated to 90 percent higher than the same time last year, The New York Post reported.
Shooting incidents jumped more than 70 percent and carjackings almost 88 percent, he said.
“Put people’s lives first before political agendas,” he said. “Without the resources, it makes it challenging to make Oakland safe.”
The police department’s budget cuts were approved by the Oakland City Council.
“I had a difficult time wrapping my head around” the decision by the council members, he said. The “majority of them … voted to defund this police department.”
Armstrong isn’t the only one blaming the Defund the Police movement for a spike in crime nationwide.
“Look at what’s happening where they’re defunding the police,” former President Donald Trump said at the North Carolina annual Republican Party convention on June 5, 2021, echoing an argument he made on the campaign trail in 2020. “The crime rate is going up by 50, 60, 100 percent, 131 percent in one city.”
“An explosion of violent crime,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said recently. U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C, tweeted, “Democrat-run cities across the country who cut funding for police have seen increases in crime.”
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While Republicans are blaming demands to defund the police for a spike in murders, killings are also rising in cities that increased spending on cops, The Chicago Tribune reported.
“Trump and countless Republican candidates seized on Black Lives Matter protesters’ calls to ‘defund the police,‘ or to shift police funding toward social programs to address the root causes of crime like poverty and mental illness, to link them to violent crime increases that began before the summer protests following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd,” Salon reported.
However, data compiled by crime analyst Jeff Asher from 51 cities shows that the murder rate in Democratic-led cities went up 36.2 percent while the murder rate in Republican-led cities increased by a virtually identical 35.6 percent.
Los Angeles and Chicago have experienced double-digit increases in homicide rates this year, and both decreased spending on police. Crime-ridden Chicago decreased its police budget by 3 percent, mainly by cutting vacant positions, The Chicago Tribune reported.
But homicide rates are also increasing in cities that didn’t cut spending. In Houston, which has a Democratic mayor, killings have gone up, but so, too, has funding for police. Nashville, Tennessee, led by a Democratic mayor, boosted its police budget but has seen homicides increase 50 percent so far this year over 2020.
Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Fresno, California, have had more killings so far in 2021. Both cities have Republican mayors.
People shouldn’t be looking at political parties or the defunding the police movement, said Elizabeth Hinton, a Yale Law School professor who studies the history of criminalization in America. They need to dig deeper to get to the root of the increase in crime. Other factors are actually to blame for the record crime spike across the country.
“Instead of linking this to covid and mass unemployment and general anxiety, they’re saying that somehow calls to defund the police are behind this, as a way to justify more policing as a response,” Hinton told the Chicago Tribune.
“The spike is related in complex ways to both the coronavirus pandemic and social unrest over police violence,” wrote Richard Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri – St. Louis and former president of the American Society of Criminology, in The Washington Post.
Out of about 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide, only about 12 cut their police budgets by mid-August, Salon reported. Among those are New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, and Oakland. So defunding wouldn’t account for a nationwide crime spike.
As pandemic restrictions ease, crime has increased due to increased opportunity, experts say. Residential burglary and larceny rates in 20+ cities dropped sharply from the beginning of March to the end of June, according to a recent study Rosenfeld conducted with Ernesto Lopez. Now property crimes — which tend to increase as the weather warms –are up. During the pandemic quarantines, businesses were closed, presenting few opportunities for robbery and shoplifting. Also, burglars typically avoided occupied households.
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The study also found that an increase in police violence against civilians causes violence by civilians to increase.
“During periods of widespread social unrest, especially over police brutality, violent crimes tend to increase. We saw this during the urban unrest of the 1960s and again five years ago amid the protests against police violence in Ferguson, Mo., Chicago, New York, and elsewhere,” Rosenfeld wrote.