Following the death of George Floyd and a wave of rioting across the United States, a handful of major American cities followed through with activists’ demands to slice police budgets.
In a summary of crime statistics for 2020, crime analyst Jack Asher showed that the homicide rate rose in 51 of 57 major American metropolitan areas. 37 of the cities reported spikes in murder above 30%, while some — such as Seattle, Milwaukee, and Louisville — saw their homicide rate nearly double.
Final national murder update of 2020:
Murder up 36.7% in 57 agencies with data through at least September (though most have data through November). Murder up in 51 of 57, 37 of 58 agencies reporting murder up more than 30%.
— Jeff Asher (@Crimealytics) December 29, 2020
Many of the cities which observed significant increases in murder also passed budgets that stripped police departments of funding. In fact, there is a nearly linear correspondence between the magnitude of police budget cuts and the magnitude of murder spikes.
While “correlation” is by no means “causation,” it is indeed notable that cities with a relatively lax approach to law enforcement saw their laws broken more often.
Austin, Texas — which defunded its police to a larger extent than any other city — saw a massive spike in its murder rate.
In August, the Austin City Council voted unanimously to nix $150 million from its $434 million police budget, representing a roughly 35% budget cut. Councilmember Greg Casar — who led the initiative — declared that “this moment has been born out of a lot of hurt in the community.” He also signaled more action in the future: “We know we have a long way to go.”
Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) warned that the city’s decision would carry consequences.
“Some cities are more focused on political agendas than public safety,” he commented. “Austin’s decision puts the brave men and women of the Austin Police Department and their families at greater risk, and paves the way for lawlessness. Public safety is job one, and Austin has abandoned that duty.”
The governor’s prediction was correct. According to Asher’s data, the city observed 29 murders in 2019. In 2020, it saw 45 murders — a 55% increase.
New York City
After passing a budget that “reduces police spending and shrinks NYPD’s footprint,” the Big Apple experienced a similar increase in homicides.
New York City Council believes that its $1 billion reduction in NYPD’s budget — which includes $484 million in cuts, $354 million in shifts to public health agencies, and $162 million in shifts of other costs — was “a hard-fought battle, which marks the beginning of the Council’s efforts to not only limit the size and scope of the NYPD, but also reimagine how we structure criminal justice and public safety in this city.”
The budget reduction marks a 17% decrease from its former size of $6 billion.
Although a statement from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office insisted that the budget maintains “patrol strength to protect the safety of all communities,” New York City saw 437 murders in 2020 — a 39% increase from 314 murders in 2019.
Las Vegas failed to prioritize law enforcement in its budget and quickly faced the consequences.
In response to an expected dip in revenue following the COVID-19 pandemic, Las Vegas decreased its spending by over 15%. However, its police budget was also axed by 7.1% in May 2020.
Many citizens were not satisfied. Commenting at a protest outside of Las Vegas City Hall, one activist stated that “we feel like the police need to be defunded, on the simple fact, we feel like they’re not here to do their pledge, which is to serve and protect.”
Las Vegas Police Protective Association President Steve Grammas fired back: “I understand that folks are upset with what happened in Minnesota, but calling for the defunding or the dismantling of police departments is absolutely insane.”
Nevertheless, the 7.1% cut corresponded with a murder rate increase of 14%. In 2019, the city saw 84 murders; in the next year, it saw 96.
Despite its status as an epicenter of rioting and violence during the Black Lives Matter riots, the nation’s capital decided to scale back its police budget.
In July, Washington, D.C.’s budget for the Metropolitan Police Department imposed a $33 million cut from its previous $611 million — a 5% decrease.
“The council, like all Americans, is grappling with undoing centuries of layered systemic racism and its permutations throughout our society,” Councilmember Charles Allen explained. “There will be no single law or single budget that could possibly provide a single remedy.”
Washington observed an increase in murders from 165 in 2019 to 197 in 2020 — a 19% spike.
As its leadership defunded law enforcement, Portland — another epicenter of mass protest movements — saw its own increase in violence.
Notably, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D-OR) threw his weight behind calls to defund the police.
A June 2020 memo from his office called for lawmakers to redirect “over $7 million from Police Bureau and $5 million from other City funds to communities of color,” increase “police accountability,” reinvest in “black and brown communities,” and advocate for “greater access to community-based behavioral health and harm-reduction services located in communities of color.”
Portland subsequently saw 50 murders in 2020 — a 52% increase from the 33 murders in 2019.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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