A lot of people are wondering whether life will ever return to the way it was before the pandemic. They wish that inflation would still be very low, that the problem of widespread shortages will be resolved quickly, and that the worries and uncertainties that have crept into our lives would go away.  But there's something else to wish for that's even more important: that the soaring crime rate around the country be brought under control quickly.

Unfortunately, there are no signs of this happening; in fact, it’s starting to look like the new normal.  Even more shocking is how brazen and ruthless some criminals are.  They have taken control of some streets and neighborhoods, and in some cities political leaders appear to be supporting them. Not long ago no one could have imagined the predicament we are in today. By the same token, no one knows where all of this is heading.

 

Help Yourself

A video taken in front of a retailer in Connecticut shows two looters outside a large retailer hurriedly emptying a shopping cart filled with detergent into a van; a man standing nearby had a few choice words for them and laments what has happened to society, but wisely doesn't get involved.  A second video also showed two looters emptying merchandise into a van, but they were more ambitious: They had stolen big-screen TVs.

In both videos, security guards were nowhere to be seen and the vans sped away.  Presumably, the looters either will sell their stolen merchandise online or peddle it on street corners at sharply-discounted prices.

Many stores around the country are being victimized by looting, shoplifting, and related crimes.  The ones that are part of major chains are stung by thefts but usually can survive.  But for mom and pop stores, such losses, repeated again and again, are very painful and sometimes prove to be fatal.  Incidentally, the top five cities for retail crimes are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Miami, according to a trade association. 

But looting is just the tip of the crime iceberg.  Much worse are follow-home robberies such as those happening in Los Angeles and other cities.  Victims are targeted, followed, and robbed as they reach their homes or businesses.

The National Retail Federation believes that the fewer prosecutions and more lenient penalties being meted out are fueling the rise of these crimes. “Many states have increased the threshold of what constitutes a felony, which has had the unintended consequence of allowing criminals to steal more without being afraid of stronger penalties,” the trade association reported.  However, even relatively small thefts add up, and now cost retailers a total of $45 billion a year.

A particularly gruesome crime occurred in Las Vegas.  An 82-year-old woman was attacked, dismembered, and buried in her own back yard by squatters, who then moved into her home and took over her finances.

Meanwhile, parts of other cities are so dangerous that they are essentially no-go zones.  According to one website, in the downtown area of Seattle, city employees "need to be escorted by security guards to train stations and ferry terminals after work."

Anyone who thinks the military can be relied on to "retake" the dangerous areas of our cities or offer protection to their residents if widespread rioting and looting erupt again is making a mistake. 

The commandant of the Marines recently told NPR Morning Edition that the Marines have plans for a big overhaul, but not to make it a more efficient force or to be better able to respond faster in case of an emergency.  Rather, they want to address its lack of diversity.  The commandant's goal: to make the Marines "reflect America, to reflect the society we come from."

Not all that long ago, just the thought of messing with a Marine would have made everyone think twice and convince most people to keep walking. Unfortunately, times have changed - and not for the better.

 

Crimes A Plenty

Fox5NY reports that shootings and murders in New York City were down in October, but other violent crimes continued to surge, and the overall crime rate was up 11.2% over last year.  More specifically, the number of robberies jumped 15.8%, and assaults increased by 13.8%.

Numbers give us an idea about what's going on out there, but don't tell the story about how brutal things are.  For example, a man in Manhattan was attacked by a stranger, an ax-wielding man wearing a mask; a woman was shot in the eye while looking through the peephole of her Manhattan apartment.

According to the FBI's just-released "Crime In The United States Report," the homicide rate in the US in 2020 surged to a 24-year high; moreover, the increase from 2019 to 2020 was one of the largest increases the US has experienced in 90 years.  

ABC7NY reported in September that hate crimes in New York continued their surge, particularly against Asian Americans and Jews.  In the last year, hate crimes against Asians were up 375% and against Jews they jumped 51%.

 

It's About Time

There's never a good or convenient time for a spike in crime, and the current environment certainly is not an exception.  The lives of many people have been turned upside down because of the pandemic, its consequences, and ongoing problems.  Who knows how many people out there are at the breaking point and whether additional stresses, such as that caused by being the victim of a crime, could make them snap?  These concerns are completely unpredictable and too frightening to contemplate.

Most likely Mayor-elect Eric Adams, a former cop, understands this, and that is one of the reasons he wants to reactivate the NYPD's plain clothes street units, which helped deter crime in the past.  Certainly, many New Yorkers agree.

But not all do, and one who doesn't is Hawk Newsome, co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM) of Greater New York.  Newsome had a heated exchange with Adams during a public meeting over his stance on the police unit, which in the past had been involved in several high-profile killings of African American men. Adams could have taken the easy way out, but to his credit he didn't, and he deserves to be commended for that.

If crime is left unchecked it will certainly lead to heightened tensions and possibly even to vigilantism.  Worse, it could even lead to an extreme right-wing backlash, and in that event the angry emotions unleashed would not stop on a dime.

The calm we are seeing now is precarious, and emotions are running very high. Will someone please pass the Dramamine for this roller coaster ride?

Sources: abc7ny.com; economiccollapsebog.com; fox5ny.com; yahoonews.com. zerohedge.com


 Gerald Harris is a financial and feature writer. Gerald can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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