‘Defund the police’ gets mugged by reality
While some cities experiencing a crime surge have increased police budgets, many of the worst-hit cities have defunded the police and eliminated officer positions.
WASHINGTON • Irving Kristol famously said that “a neoconservative is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality.” Well, in San Francisco, it appears that liberal Mayor London Breed, D, has not only been mugged, but assaulted, robbed and smash-and-grabbed by reality.
In July 2020, Breed announced her plan to defund the police — cutting $120 million from law enforcement to fund social programs. Result? Crime skyrocketed.
Today, San Francisco is more dangerous than 98% of U.S. cities. In November alone, there were 3,375 reports of larceny theft citywide. In the Central District, home to many of the city’s tourist hot spots, there were 876 reports of smash-and-grabs — almost 30 a day — a 98% increase from the year before. In the Tenderloin district, there are midday shootings and residents are forced to walk in the middle of the streets to avoid drug dealers and homeless people lying on the sidewalk shooting up. San Francisco residents have a 1 in 16 chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime.
This crime wave finally convinced Breed to reverse course. “It’s time the reign of criminals who are destroying our city . . . to come to an end,” the mayor declared in a news conference this week. She is refunding the police, increasing the SFPD budget to $689 million in the 2022-2023 fiscal year, nearly matching the all-time high in 2019-2020. And she is ordering police to combat the rash of retail thefts, conduct felony warrant sweeps, stop open air-drug dealing and substance abuse, and establish safe passage for citizens.
“What I’m proposing today, and what I will be proposing in the future will make a lot of people uncomfortable, and I don’t care,” Breed said. The time has come to be “more aggressive with law enforcement, more aggressive with the changes in our policies, and less tolerant of all the bull — — that has destroyed our city.”
Good for her. One of the hardest things to do in politics is admitting that you were wrong. So, when will her fellow Democratic mayors across the country do the same? San Francisco is far from alone. At least 12 cities have already broken annual homicide records in 2021 — five topping records that were just set or tied last year — and homicides are rising in other major cities across the country.
While some cities experiencing a crime surge have increased police budgets, many of the worst hit cities have defunded the police and eliminated officer positions. Minneapolis cut $8 million from the police budget. Oakland cut $14.6 million. Portland cut $15 million. Philadelphia cut $33 million. Seattle reduced its police budget by $46 million, and the SPD has shrunk by nearly 270 police officers in the past 18 months. New York cut police funding last year by a whopping $1 billion, while more than 2,500 officers left the department.
And yet many of the Democratic mayors who backed these cuts are in denial about their impact.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently blamed the victims of smash-and-grabs, declaring that too many retailers had failed to hire private security. They would not need to hire private security if Lightfoot hadn’t let the city’s police force shrink by nearly 400 officers.
Or take New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who recently boasted that New York is “the safest of the top 20 big cities in this country.” Last year, New York saw a 44% increase in homicides over 2019. This year, the homicide rate is down 0.5% — virtually unchanged. So de Blasio wants credit for maintaining the disastrous homicide rates of 2020?
It’s not just police funding, but police morale has plunged. Officers no longer believe politicians have their backs, which has led to less vigorous policing and more difficulty in recruiting new officers along with soaring retirements and resignations. According to NPR, there has been a 45% increase in police retirements, a nearly 20% increase in resignations and a 5% decrease in new police hiring nationwide.
It’s time for all of America’s major cities to take the same steps as San Francisco and restore police funding. But refunding the police is not enough. As Breed explained, “It’s critical that our entire criminal justice system holds these individuals accountable when arrests are made. Our residents should not see the same criminals back on the streets . . . again and again, in an endless cycle of fear and frustration.”
It’s also time for President Joe Biden to exercise some leadership on crime. On taking office, Biden ended the Justice Department’s Operation Legend — named for 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed in Kansas City last year — which deployed federal officers to aid and assist local law enforcement and helped arrest more than 6,000 violent criminals.
A new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds only 36% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of crime — down from 43% in late October. If the president wants to change that, maybe he should order the Justice Department to stop using the FBI to intimidate school board moms and focus on arresting violent criminals again. If not, Republicans will lay blame for the current crime wave at his feet — and deservedly so.