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Progressives ignore America’s crime wave at their peril

Target was forced to close its Harlem branch this week. Credit: Getty

September 28, 2023 - 1:30pm

The discount department chain Target recently announced that it will be closing nine stores across the United States in cities such as San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. The stated reason is rampant organised retail theft, which has created more shrinkage (loss of inventory from other than sales) than can be dealt with, and an unsafe shopping environment driving prospective customers away. A precedence has already been set for this. Macys and Best Buy have closed a few of their stores citing similar reasons. 

It is important to note that not all these closures are due to theft alone. Multiple factors are involved, including economic downturn, changing consumer behaviour, declining profit margins and increased competition from online retail. Nevertheless, if theft rises to a certain level it can greatly impact a retailer’s bottom line, especially if the store in question is in a poor area and facing multiple challenges. 

In the last few years, we have become accustomed to seeing viral social media clips of big retail stores in American cities being raided flash mob style by masked individuals grabbing whatever they desire and walking out with the security guards standing helpless. Usually, these raids are conducted in an organised fashion so that the crews can sell the stolen property onto the black market for profit. In many cities, carjacking has become so prominent that even city politicians and state senators are the victims of such crimes. 

What are the reasons behind such rampant theft? One potential answer is that American police are faced with a recruiting crisis, meaning they’re more likely to be overstretched and organised criminals sense an opportunity to exploit this shortage. 

However, since 2020, American progressives have tended to dismiss the rising crime wave as little more than a Right-wing moral panic, a convenient diversion by the ruling class away from their own knavery and iniquities. This is often done to protect the image and reputation of “blue America”, including the “progressive prosecutors” like George Gascon of Los Angeles and Chesa Boudin of San Francisco. These figures have become known for cash bail reform and declining to prosecute low-level offences, for fear of giving ammunition to the Right that reverse efforts at criminal justice reform.

Interestingly, these same people would portray gun violence as a “red state problem“, when it is in fact a national problem that cuts through both red & blue states and requires more serious thought than tendentious argumentation. 

They feel more passionate in propagandising over guns as a “public health crisis” because it logically chimes in with their culture war crusade for gun control. Retail theft or carjacking and other “quality of life” crimes doesn’t bother them in the same way because there’s the idea that theft of property, especially from a corporation, isn’t really something to be bothered about since property is “bad”. 

Leftists are fond of saying crime is caused by poverty and inequality. But it is also the case that crime can at least exacerbate impoverishment and social decay. The old Marxists argued that rising crime was symptomatic of the real, socially disintegrative side of capitalism. So, to truly address crime one must, as any radical should, grapple with the roots of it. But that requires taking crime seriously enough to investigate it, since crime and violence harms ordinary people above all.


Ralph Leonard is a British-Nigerian writer on international politics, religion, culture and humanism.

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Richard M
Richard M
9 months ago

The truth is that crime hurts the poor most.
Gang activity, violence, drug selling, robbery, shoplifting, mugging and prostitution are all disproportionately concentrated in poor areas.
This counts the same for shop closures which are mainly or in part due to shoplifting. These are more likely to be in poor areas, leading to job losses, buildings being abandoned, increased travel costs to buy necessities, and quality of life further declining for the people in those communities.
There’s nothing progressive about refusing to tackle the problem, or progressive causes such as “defunding the police”. Its merely the appearance of virtue which is a sine qua non for advancing a career within the citadels of the political left.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

Gang activity, violence, drug selling, robbery, shoplifting, mugging and prostitution are all disproportionately concentrated in poor areas.
Did you know that there is a direct correlation between the decline in Spirograph and the rise in gang activity? Think about it!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

That’s the most nauseating thing about it. These policies are an attack on the most marginalized communities. They are luxury beliefs supported by people utterly disconnected from anyone outside their privileged social circles. If the GOP wasn’t so pathetic and hopeless at politics, the trickle of minority groups away from the Dems would be a flood.

Richard M
Richard M
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The political left (in the UK at least) often bemoans the fact that what we used to call the working class exhibit the “wrong” attitudes on issues like crime, welfare etc.
What they never seem to understand is that its the working class who have to live every day with the consequences of crime, welfare dependency etc. They’re not really that interested in high-minded ideological explanations of why the neighbour’s unruly kids keep smashing up the bus stop because they are victims of capitalist alienation. They just want the people in charge to stop them.

Robert Doyle
Robert Doyle
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

Well said

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

One can only hope that the carjacked politicians were those who hold these idiotic views and implement even more idiotic policies.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
9 months ago

In fact, something like this just happened in Minnesota. A former supporter of defund the police changed her tune when she was carjacked.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/democrat-farmer-labor-party-leader-s-dramatic-change-from-defund-the-police-advocate-to-victim-of-violent-carjacking/ar-AA1h5wxD

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

“You know the definition of a conservative? A liberal who got mugged“

Sgt. T.J. Hooker

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

I have two investment properties in inner-Melbourne, Australia that I never had trouble finding good tenants for. I have owned both properties in a million $ home suburb for more than a decade.

Then a stalker ex-coworker’s crimes spilling over to people around me escalated to a level I had to stop having tenants in 2021 – after having had to stop trying to earn a salary in 2017, because of the crimes’ impact on people I worked with/for. I never even dated the stalker. The stalker has criminal Victoria Police officer accomplices. They commit often sadistic, bizarre crimes evidently for their amusement without any risk of punishment.

Our police have neither duty of care, nor accountability, while having a monopoly on what is a crime. Australia never had functional law-enforcement, but people don’t know that unless they try to report a serious crime: witnesses and victims are silenced with whatever level of brutality is required.

There is a massive rental shortage in Melbourne.

I wouldn’t be the only landlord who cannot compensate for crimes, and hence either sell their properties or keep them empty hoping for a better future.

Shortage increases rent, which makes life harder for renters.

Our wall-to-wall Lefty governments at both state and federal levels ignore crime, refuse to acknowledge the consequences while parroting glib virtue-signalling rubbish about their concern for the welfare of the poorest, including those who would be my tenants in comfortable, well-maintained, and affordable homes. My tenants used to stay for many years for good reasons.

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
9 months ago
Reply to  Katalin Kish

PS: As if proof of ongoing, risk-free crimes in a Melbourne suburb of million $ homes were still needed, I found signs of an overnight physical break-in/security camera sabotage this morning 2 October 2023, in one of my vacant properties.

To protect my properties from squatters, I am following a pitiful routine closing drapes and turning lights on in the evenings, opening drapes and turning off lights in the mornings, collecting and rationing rubbish in between bin-nights, so that the bins I put out weekly aren’t empty. I found the break-in signs/security camera sabotage during this morning’s routine.

I won’t be making any attempts to report these crimes, I won’t even document them beyond having made a LinkedIn comment, and posting this comment on UnHerd. I gave up trying to report any crimes in 2018. Trying to report crimes in Melbourne, Australia is a waste of time at best. Australia never had functional law-enforcement, our worst criminals have always been police officers.

The criminals breaking into my house were either Victoria Police officers themselves, or they are accomplices of Victoria Police officers (MEEHAN / MAYNE, MARCUCCI, GEARY etc crime families). The break-in and sabotage follow the same patterns as thousands of previously committed crimes by the stalker ex-coworker and his accomplices since 2009. I never even dated the stalker, never called the stalker or any of his accomplices a friend of any kind.

It is an eerie feeling to know that there is no point in collecting crime evidence: I am, I have been a defenceless prey at the mercy of the sadistic pervert predators whose day-job salaries are paid by my taxes since 2009 in barbaric Australia. Australia’s authorities and criminals have proven time and time again to share the same interest: silencing crime witnesses and victims to preserve the status quo. In barbaric Australia might=right, always was and likely will remain for a long time to come.

Since crimes in Australia are risk-free trivialities for the criminals committing them, there is no logic behind them. Being under 24x7x365 surveillance there is every chance my suffering is enjoyed by any number of sick psychos as their own reality TV, where the script is up to them. I have long given up trying to find surveillance devices planted at any one of the break-ins. I cannot hope to defend myself against government-level crime capabilities in criminal hands.

#ididnotstaysilent

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
9 months ago

The Democrats constituency is splintering over this and related issues.
The 1990’s Democratic Party would never have tolerated this kind of crime. It was Joe Biden who shepherded the 1994 crime bill. Why? Because the Party’s working class / minority constituency was the primary victims of that crime.
Today’s Democratic Party can tolerate the crime wave. Why? Because the Party’s new constituency is the educated & wealthy, who can mitigate the effects of crime with gated communities and private security.
The minority groups are still hanging on thinking they run the show (the Dem’s focus on BLM and antiracism and social justice and LGBT is partly to preserve that illusion) but getting mugged outside your house has a habit of altering people’s political attitudes pretty quick. And when that backlash comes… Trump may well look like a moderate.

Last edited 9 months ago by Brian Villanueva
AC Harper
AC Harper
9 months ago

Apparently not just stores are closing, appreciable numbers of people are moving to different states where crime is less of a problem.
If people care enough to vote ‘with their feet’ how many others remaining might vote against their traditional support for the Democratic party?
It’s how machine political parties, who take ‘their’ electorate for granted, come unstuck.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Depends on the political leanings of those engaging in flight and their level of cognitive dissonance. Plenty of lefties I know have scooted out of ‘edgy’ parts of London (unsurprisingly when the child was approaching school age and cool nightclubs were no longer appealing enough to offset the risk of getting mugged, burgled or chibbed) to leafy suburbs or villages, only to bemoan their Tory voting neighbours. They take their idiocy with them and they continue to vote for it.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

Leftists are fond of saying crime is caused by poverty and inequality.
Of course, they don’t realize how inherently classist such a statement is, in that it implies that the poor are more likely to be criminals.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago

Most left wing middle class are terrified of physical violence and therefore surrender to thugs. Tough blue collar / ex military men who have played contact sport are not terrified of violence and are prepared to stop it but they are likely to be prosecuted by left wing middle class DAs/ CPS for injuring the criminal. If a 200lb plus, 6 ft plus construction worker/ ex military and ex contact sports player punches and places an arm lock on a criminal, that person will likely have a broken jaw and dislocated shoulder. Left wings DAs/CPS have basically stopped the strong protecting the weak from violent criminals.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
9 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

yep the second amendment is looking like a reasonable law….

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
9 months ago

A pattern is emerging. The woke have now been around long enough to have practical consequences. Journalists are becoming willing to investigate these real world results. The public – including traditional liberals – are beginning to turn away from progressive policies one by one. Started with trans excesses, police defunding and weak prosecutors (as illustrated by the Target closures). DEI next? Then 


Philosophical arguments had little impact but these practical consequences resonate. The effect is being amplified by the decline in self censorship / woke intimidation. Journalists are become braver.

A virtuous circle? The pendulum has begun to swing back and has further to go.

Last edited 9 months ago by Alex Carnegie
Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
9 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I agree…although social media is really run down by people, it was on social media you first found the cancel culture in full flight and the practice of using lazy labels like ‘Fascist’ or ‘Bigot’ etc., to demonise opposing views.
Now on social media people are far less worried about such labels and debate has swung round to the extent, I agree with you, the tide is turning, but, again as you say, has further to go.
In Britain we may look back with thanks on the truly woeful intellects in the Scottish Parliament who voted overwhelmingly for Nicola Sturgeon’s truly awful GRR Bill.
For the first time Sturgeon stumbled over a topic of value signalling utility that was actually bigger than *Inde* and support began to fall away, despite the attempts to demonise critics.
That was the first sign of an ebb, which we now see with Net Zero, the intellectual totalitarianism of Black Lives Matter, and other such value signalling narcissistic policies that have caused so much real damage to Britain and everyone in it.

Justin S
Justin S
9 months ago

The author has omitted the very obvious fact that these massive organised crime waves are a committed almost solely by black people and are a cultural reflection of the black population of America.
It is the same for the largest proportion of gun crime, and in the UK it is knife crime.
Cultural reflection of the black community doesnt sit well with the progressive left and they will do anything but acknowledge such awkward truths.

Write all the soft hand wringing articles you like, but how about you actually put some knuckle on the subject.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
9 months ago

When anyone ever sees a video of these shoplifting carnivals with dozens of thieves stealing thousands of dollars of stuff, you get 2 clear impressions:
1) they are always all black folks
2) the entire thing is organized.
The black community is today a degenerate collection of unemployed jerks who see the prosperity of the society but have no ability to legally participate. So thievery is the only approach that they have to get all that stuff they see on TV.
These stores need to put locator tags on all merchandize so that it can be found after the fact.

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
9 months ago

“A precedence has already been set” ?
Wakey, wakey, editors.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago
Reply to  Mark Goodhand

I usually set my precedence for eleven o’clock.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
9 months ago

I get my precedence from BIRDMAS.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago

One statistic which is never shown are number of murders per square mile. If the USA was covered in a grid of one square mile and the numbers of killing per square mile recorded,then divide by number of people in square mile one would arrive at killings per square mile per capita and one would find that killings probably show a log normal distribution; large number of killings in a few areas. If one divided the killings into two hour slots one would probably find most occur between 22:00Hrs and 02:hrs. Even if one lived in a high crime area, if one stayed indoors between 22:00Hrs and 02:Hrs one would reduce the risk of being murdered. One could ensure maximum police presence in certain areas at certain times.
Air Chief Marshall Dowding won the Battle of Britain because he ensured the appropriate resources were at the right place at the right time.
The left wing middle class despise patriotism and physical courage ( Orwell ): want to destroy the individual and force them to join a Collective run by themselves, consider property is theft, are scared of the violence of criminals and are supported by the a large number of careers dependent on high crime rates within inner city areas. If inner cities had no violent crime, drug dealing and prostitution; schools produced fit people educated to the standards of Switzerland and Singapore, people had the education and skills to be employed in well paid skilled secure jobs, then vast mumbers of people would out of a job.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
9 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Can you expand on the “vast numbers” point please.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

A small number of very highly qualified police: no need for social workers, civil servants processing welfare, smaller number of prison guards, smaller number of teachers teaching narrow range of rigorous academic and technical subjects( schools in Asia do not have discipline problems ); smaller number of people cleaning up waste, repairing vandalism, no need for council owned homes; rigorous control of spending – no money going to political cronies. Switzerland has much spending devolved to village level and low taxes because money does not have to be spent on 15-20% of the population who are unskilled, uneducated, criminal and who depend upon welfare. Switzerland has an ethic of if a job is to be done, it will done to the highest possible standards. Public transport is punctual and clean.
In short, the Swiss are emotionally mature and accept responsibility of being an adult in a democracy.
An economic adviser to Bill Clinton said there was no excuse for poverty in the USA if people graduated from high school, did not marry until the age of twenty and did not have children until they are married. What I think made Clinton different to most Democrats is that he wanted to reduce dependency on welfare and hence poverty by ensuring people obtained the skills and achieved a stable secure homelife.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
9 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

More a Poisson distribution than normal.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

I suggest Log Normal, large numbers of killings in small area; many areas with no killings; the distribution is logarithmic.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
9 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Since the murders are counts, Poisson is far more correct. Normal and log-normal are for continuous variables. Count data is different.

Waffles
Waffles
9 months ago

Wokes are unable to do much of anything. It’s not just that their cities are aflame and shanty towns are sprouting up, they are unable to build anything.

They Left are supposed to value public transport but it’s the Conservative states that are building high speed rail in the US.

California have had 15 years and nearly $10b and they have delivered exactly nothing. Zip zero nada.

Conservative Florida have just finished a new state of the art high speed rail at a fraction of the cost and time.

Have a butchers at this: https://open.substack.com/pub/solana/p/florida-has-high-speed-rail-and-california?utm_source=share&utm_medium=android&r=ysp20

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
9 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

The “environmental impact statement” has taken over. Lawyers ensure that any group of 2 persons can stop a project that is good for millions.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
9 months ago

“gun violence as a ‘red state problem‘, when it is in fact a national problem that cuts through both red & blue states”
A slight but important correction: It cuts through blue cities in red states, where life remains largely normal outside the city limits signs.

Jim McDonnell
Jim McDonnell
9 months ago

The kind of action that would be needed to seriously discourage this type of criminal activity would result in outcries from civil rights activists the like of which we’ve never heard before. No way out of this unless state and local officials are prepared to endure it and the US Justice Department is willing to allow them to do what they have to do.

Last edited 9 months ago by Jim McDonnell
William Brand
William Brand
9 months ago

Currently the only punishments allowed by law are jail or fines. Let’s be creative. Instead of bail attach a ball and chain to the arrestee. Make him carry 50 pounds of lead wherever he goes. Upon conviction use the Australia principal. He finds himself in the middle of the desert living in an adobe hut and unable to go anywhere because a GPS activated collar will blow his head off if he tries. No guards required. Third world countries would love to get the contract to house American criminals.