In the aftermath of national protests against police brutality and the shooting death of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown nearly a year ago in Ferguson, Missouri, police claim that demonstrators are jeopardizing community safety, highlighting a rise in violent crime in recent months in St. Louis, according to Think Progress.
But a new report released by the Sentencing Project debunks the myth of the so-called “Ferguson Effect,” which claims that police have slowed down enforcement due to public scrutiny, leading to more crime, including homicides, writes the news outlet.
Via Think Progress:
In 2014, there were 159 homicides in St. Louis, compared to 120 in 2013 — an increase of 32.5 percent. Drawing on local police data, the Sentencing Project discovered that the ratio of monthly homicides, from 2014 to 2013, was highest in the first quarter of the year. The ratio of homicides jumped between February and April, decreased in April and May, and rose again in June — months before Brown was killed. And while the number of homicides climbed after August 2014, the ratio was never as high as it was in April. In other words, homicides occurred most frequently in the first part of the year, and therefore, evidence does not support a causal relationship between the events that unfolded in Ferguson and subsequent homicides.
Additionally, little evidence supports the notion that non-homicide violent crimes, including robbery and assault, in St. Louis were instigated by police grievances in Ferguson. Although the ratio accelerated between September and December, it was also high at the beginning of the year. And similar to the ratio of homicides, the ratio of violent crimes decreased over a two-month period, but increased again in May, long before Brown was shot. If anything, the most promising evidence in support of the “Ferguson Effect” was the ratio of property crimes in St. Louis, which remained relatively consistent until August, and increased thereafter.
Executive Director Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project tells ThinkProgress that attributing rising crime in Baltimore, Chicago, and other cities to the “Ferguson Effect” is dangerous.
“It gets us back the era of the 1980s when police had crime policy developed by soundbites and anecdotes. We had the War on Drugs and ‘three strikes, you’re out.’ Far too often one sensationalized crime was made to stand in for the entirety of the crime problem. It’s not a reasonable or ethical way to go about doing research, and it doesn’t inform us about public policy and what we should be doing.”
We agree with Mauer. And we hope that police departments will implement reforms to end systemic brutality against people of color, instead of casting blame for long-standing problems created by law enforcement officers.
SOURCE: Think Progress | PHOTO CREDIT: Twitter