On Crime and Punishment in Large Cities

By George Liebman, The American Conservative

Recent events might lead the uninitiated to believe that, on the crime front, America’s large cities are getting better and better.

Several of the new breed of city prosecutors have announced with pride that the “war on drugs is over” in cities such as Baltimore and, “there is no public safety value in prosecuting low-level offenses.” The Biden Justice Department, with the cooperation of local officials eager for possible federal funds, has launched investigations looking toward “consent decrees” in Minneapolis and Louisville.

But large cities that have toyed with consent decrees like Baltimore and Chicago have higher homicide rates to show for it, since two of their principal effects are to discourage police recruitment and prevent proactive policing. History teaches that competent police commissioners enjoying political support can reform police—insulated and naive federal judges cannot.


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