by Joel Kotkin
Tuesday, 7
December 2021
Explainer
13:40

How America’s progressive citadels became crime centres

Left-wing policies have been a disaster in the US's most liberal cities
by Joel Kotkin
Crime is rampant in America’s ‘enlightened’ cities on the Pacific coast. Credit: Getty

We usually associate violent crime and disorder with America’s impoverished inner cities — places like New Orleans, the south and west sides of Chicago, or long distressed counties like the Bronx. But today the centre of American crime is increasingly to be found on the West Coast, within some of the country’s wealthiest and most celebrated cities.

The explanation is new, too: instead of the traditional link between poverty and crime, this crime wave has more to do with policy. Virtually all the cities with the most notable crime outbreaks — San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles — are places with progressive prosecutors working to limit punishments for looters, organised thieves and the unruly, occasionally violent, homeless. The cities, with the exception of Los Angeles, are also among the whitest in the U.S., with a large population of educated people.

The lax legal environment has made west coast cities the happy hunting ground for “smash and grab” thieves on a hitherto unprecedented scale. These cities have also seen rapid growth in violent crime, which is never far behind disorder on the streets. Once these places, notably Portland, were seen as urban exemplars, but few would choose a city whose downtown has collapsed under months of pressure from radical demonstrators and suffers from record homicides.

California’s deliberate reduction in the punishment for minor property damage under $1000 has been linked to a spike in shoplifting, particularly in San Francisco. Mike Shellenberger, author of the recently published San Fransicko, suggests criminals and the homeless go to cities where they face the least chance of prosecution; the homeless tend to migrate where they are free to camp and avoid prosecution for property crimes. They are even given hotel rooms as well as free drugs and alcohol.

California is one of just a handful of states to see dramatic increases in its homeless population. According to Shellenberger, between 2015-2020, San Francisco’s homeless grew by 32%, despite tripling its funds to address homelessness. In contrast to the rest of America, California is one of just a handful of states to see dramatic increases in its homeless population.

Los Angeles, too, has taken an increasingly violent turn. Just this week, 81-year-old philanthropist Jacqueline Avant was shot dead during a burglary of her Beverley Hills home.

The images of destitution in the city are displacing the glamour of Hollywood. In parts of Los Angeles, the growing homeless encampments have spawned medieval diseases such as typhus. Companies, particularly outside tech and entertainment, are beginning to move out of LA and the other blue cities in unprecedented numbers as outmigration soars.

Many progressives understandably don’t want to admit this reality. The omni-present Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez simply denies the facts of the recent “smash and grab” incidents in various cities across the country. San Francisco’s mainstream media and political elite have tried to downplay such incidents to the outrage of many residents by ascribing political motives to the Right. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle seems more worried about the impact on the city’s image than the dire reality on the street.

Now Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s ultra-woke District Attorney, is facing a recall from enraged citizens. Another effort, this one against the equally woke LA district attorney George Gascon, has floundered but is being renewed. In increasingly crime-ridden Seattle, the hard Left DA, a police “abolitionist,” was soundly beaten by a moderate Democrat turned Republican. Even in Portland, voters chose to avoid further radicalisation and defeated a Mayoral candidate who identified with the Leftist Antifa progressive militia.

The crime surge in these deeply blue cities may also have impact nationally as well. These are key bastions of the progressive Left, and their continued distress makes a powerful political point for Republicans hunting for votes in suburbs, exurbs, and smaller towns. When it comes to election season, tolerance of crime doesn’t pay.

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Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
5 months ago

What’s so disheartening about his whole thing is the fact that, no matter how bad it gets, the left simply will not learn. Of course the homeless are going to go where it’s easiest for them. If you don’t prosecute shoplifters because you have some weird idea they deserve what the rob on the grounds that the people they steal from are wealthier than they are, then of course they’ll steal. And nothing that happens seems to shake them out of their stupidity.

James Joyce
James Joyce
5 months ago

The woke religion seems to view “shoplifting” as a form of reparations. Back to the East Coast, NYC actress and politician Cynthia Nixon tweeted how outrageous it is that major US drug stores, vital to the communities they serve–are closing multiple stores and locking up high value items that are frequently stolen–for example, razor blades, nappies, detergent. Kit should be free!
The woke simply have no understanding how the world works: people who see rampant theft know they are being played for being law-abiding, and they are in real danger in an environment of complete and utter lawlessness. And of course daily life is much more inconvenient with things locked up, stores closing, etc. and the price of goods goes up for all–well, all who pay for the goods. No such thing as a free lunch!
This is a bit like those who glorified graffiti in the 70s, when every subway car was covered in graffiti. The woke, before that term existed, celebrated this “street art” and “artists,” while normal people were horrified, terrorized. This is absolutely consistent with their worship of COWs, Citizens of Wakanda, who will lead the woke to the promised land.
Sickening!

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
5 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Funny story, in middle and rural America, we have not seen a massive crime wave. Our police departments just do the same job they have always done. We know police will not always be there and there are times when they fail or abuse their authority. They are not perfect but they keep chaos at bay and allow society to function.

James Joyce
James Joyce
5 months ago

“You can be mad but I guess I don’t personally view my car as an extension of myself and I’ve never felt violated any of the 15 or so times my car was broken in to.”
“Once a guy accidentally left a cool knife in my car so if it keeps happening you might get a little treat.”
–SETH ROGEN
This is actor and LA resident Seth Rogen’s view on crime. He also said “It’s called living in a big city.”
The extreme left–99.9% of Hollywood, and huge media influencers–is simply unconnected to the reality of daily life in a big city. So my car is broken into for the 16th time–have my PA deal with it, call the insurance company, maybe buy a new car. And Wow…., it’s like so, cool, dude, that some robber dude left a really cool knife in the car…..”
The good news is that this serious, violent crime is starting to hit home in the wealthy neighborhoods. One half or a black power couple was killed in her home by an intruder with an automatic rifle (he went on to commit more crimes, but was stopped when he shot himself in the foot), and a home in a very upscale neighborhood–Pacific Pallisades–suffered a home invason robbery where the guests were held and robbed at gunpoint inside the home during the party.
In San Francisco, a restaurant refused to serve police officers in uniforms because part of their required kit is a gun. The restaurant apparently needed a “safe space,” gun-free. Perhaps they will re-think this if armed intruders come for them. Would they welcome armed police then?
The US is completely out of control–like a dystopian Hollywood film. In NYC during the Golden Age of Crack (late 80s, early 90s), the NYPD institued a policy called “Broken Windows,” which essentially meant zero tolerance for little things. It mostly worked. The radical left has now instituted a policy that might be called “Break the Windows, It’s OK,” and the world can see the results. Burn, baby, burn!
People who call for “law and order,” people who want to be safe in their homes, have their cars unmolested in the street, free to live their lives, are not necessarily “hard right,” nazis, gun-toting vigilantes, or freelance lunatics, they are mostly people of good will who don’t recognize their country any more.
This article could have looped back to De Blasio’s utterly dysfunctional New York City, where an Italian Ph.d. student at Columbia–once one of the world’s premier unis–was stabbed to death and another student wounded by the same criminal. This follows the stabbing death of Tessa Majors in essentially the same place in Dec. 2019.
This must stop. Civil War soon!

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
5 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Seth Rogan? The guy who gave us Santa Inc?
If any question of listening to actors giving everyone else lessons on life was remaining, just view the Alec Baldwin incident. Not his fault, someone else’s responsibility, he didn’t need to check the gun first, he was told it was cold, so pointing it at someone is fine.
And of course Seth Rogan doesn’t feel that much attachment to his car. He’ll get another one. Probably has more than one anyway. All privileges that 90% of the population do not have.
Yet for some reason, those with the least skin in the game, as it were, are leading the public debate on these ridiculous policies.
Team America World Police nailed this attitude: “It’s our job as actors to read the paper in the morning and then go on TV and talk about it like it’s our opinion.”

James Joyce
James Joyce
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Touche! Well said. Yes, the same Seth Rogen, who by the way, said that white supremacists were “review bombing” Santa Inc.
Mediocre actor. World class [email protected]!

James Watson
James Watson
5 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Please go back to Lock and Load

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  James Watson

Unfortunately most of the so called libertarians are pathetic blowhards. Probably the US does ideally need now a period of authoritarian right wing government who would suppress Antifa and violent protests, take control of America-hating, crime supporting ‘mainstream’ media. Etc. It probably won’t get it!

China has already won. A nation that loathes its history and culture, and teaches its children to do this, has a cancer eating itself from the inside. One that considers that appointing ‘trans’ admirals is more important than defending the country, allows vast numbers of people to illegally cross its borders, will not have any will to defend itself in any confrontation.

Are the Chinese doing any of this? No, they are not.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
5 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

You forgot to say Lock and Load!

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
5 months ago

Asking Cynthia Nixon and Seth Rogen about social issues is like seeking the opinion of Marie Antoinette on the issues facing the poor before the French Revolution. Of course their wealth so insulates them that they spout the equivalent of “let them eat cake”.
Dr Thomas Sowell, who knows something about growing up poor and black, states that he has given up appearing before congressional committees because he knows that whatever evidence he gives will be disregarded and the politicians will simply enact what they wanted to enact before seeking evidence on the basis of ideology.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jeremy Bray
Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
5 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

You mean seeking the opinion of Marie Antoinette’s poodle.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
5 months ago
Reply to  Ray Zacek

Possibly a racist remark?

Will Cummings
Will Cummings
5 months ago

The problem is that they have become so good at what they do. The sophisticated, urbane, and articulate left does propaganda way better than the crass, uneducated, Neanderthal right. They do it so well that they have come to believe it themselves. They have chosen to live in a bright and sunny land of make-believe and illusion. The entire universe is a tabula rasa, where Hollywood movies serve to inform and instruct, and where any inconveniently disruptive vestige of objective reality, any pain which might awaken the woke, can be whisked away on a cloud of pacifying drugs… for now; but there will come a day of reckoning, as there always does.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
5 months ago
Reply to  Will Cummings

“Soma” in Brave New World.

Robert Pruger
Robert Pruger
5 months ago

As a NYC Republican, though living in the Midwest for 5 decades, it’s easy to be dismissive of the left’s self-inflicted wounds. But I have long-time friends in major cities who are in real danger. Unfortunately, I just don’t see my friends embracing a new Ed Koch. It would be a major repudiation of their expressed values. So the road to safety and sanity will be slow and hard.

Last edited 5 months ago by Robert Pruger
Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
5 months ago
Reply to  Robert Pruger

A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
5 months ago

Kim Fox, the Cook County (Chicago) State’s Attorney (D, Soros) won reelection in 2020. Her bad deeds weren’t enough to defeat her. She can continue not to prosecute the survivors of gang shootouts because everybody was shooting, so no one’s at fault. Fox chose not to prosecute the Jusse Smollet hoax, until public outcry forced her to do it.

The explanation is identity voting. If you vote your identity, bad governance is irrelevant. It doesn’t change your identity. So you keep voting your identity, even though the government gets worse and worse. If you’re convinced your identity means you vote for Democrats, you continue to vote for Democrats, regardless of how bad they do in governing.

The reason Democrats call all Republicans racist is because it maintains identity voting in minority communities. Democrats wouldn’t have a chance if people voted on the issues, like crime and school choice. So Democrats make sure that minorities think all Republicans are racist, so minorities won’t even consider voting for them. This leads to silly comments like saying Larry Elder, a black conservative running for Governor of California, is the black face of white supremacy. (You can check the LA Times for this whopper.) The need to preserve identity voting leads to Sen. Tim Scott (R, SC) and Lt. Gov. Elect Winsome Sears (R, VA) to be called house negros or tokens, even though their elections show Republicans vote on issues, not skin color.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
5 months ago

I presume the tourist industry in these cities benefits from tourists flying in to loot $1,000 a day of free merchandise, or are only locals allowed to steal? “Come to San Francisco and help yourself” sounds like a good advertising slogan for buses and airlines to run. No need to bring your own tent, just help yourself to one.

Fermented Agave
Fermented Agave
5 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I’m embarrassed that I had not considered hopping a flight to San Fran or LA to do my Christmas shopping. If I plan on reselling I think the travel expenses would be tax deductible, right?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
5 months ago

All according to plan………

“are places with progressive prosecutors working to limit punishments for looters, organised thieves and the unruly, occasionally violent, homeless.”

Soros funded prosecutors most likely, and PostModernist, Neo-Marxist Liberal/Left intelligentsia backed. This is 100% useful Idiots fallowing great Evil in destroying their nation, and them self, in a planned movement – to ultimately allow the Elites to take real control of the West, instead of just their soft control.

It works like this – More Crime = Greater calls from the public to protect them. = More cameras, more monitoring of every thing said and written, more GPS, Spending monitoring, tracking, more spying, more data harvesting and meta-data crunching, facial recognition, bio-metric records, more gait – Syntax AI monitoring…

This is all to cause 1984. And increasing crime causes much to advance that. Surveillance obviously, then division as the predatory class are hated by the prey class, and also the other way – and all are suspicious and angry and scared – and so all become captured as society breaks and democracy is just bought and sold. The capture of the entire education system, the MSM and Social Media – it is far along the track…

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
5 months ago
Giles Toman
Giles Toman
5 months ago

Wakanda does not exist. Its denizens in reality only destroy they don’t create.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
5 months ago

The Left has used criminals ever since they released them during the French Revolution to create The Terror of 1791 to 1793. Lenin used criminals to murder opponents post 1917 and they ran the Gulags.
The next step is to put criminals in uniform, such as The Cheka, to undertake officialextermination of the opposition.

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
5 months ago

The oddly-named mainstream media — it is far from it — thinks and acts like a cult, particularly the San Francisco Chronicle. It used to be a rather decent newspaper when I worked there.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
5 months ago

I assume the wealthy Californians who support all this have private security…

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
5 months ago

Trump wins next time.

Earl King
Earl King
5 months ago

Being woke, is a state of mind that requires one to deny that humans need structure and order. One has to deny that there are sociopaths that live among us in order to believe that anarchy is the proper way societies should be structured. The Progressive Left reimagining of crime and punishment doesn’t come from a place of evil. It comes from a good heart, that being poor in and of itself should not be a crime. That the stealing of a loaf of bread is not a crime that deserves punishment. The problem with this is that we are NOT dealing with a Jean Valjean. We are dealing with mental illness, drug addiction, sociopaths. Real criminals who are willing to commit violence. Real criminals who are not capable of living and prospering amongst us. Progressives are living in a state of mind that doesn’t exist. So in the end they create hell for the rest of us to live in.