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How Not to Fight Crime
New York City shows what happens when consequences are replaced with social services.
By Daniel Greenfield
“I will not stand by and let criminals undermine our economy and the livelihood of New Yorkers. We are going to act,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams vowed.
After announcing a 44% increase in retail theft in one year, Adams promised a bold new effort called “Second Chance” and “Re-Engaging Store Theft Offenders and Retail Establishments (RESTORE)” that will allow shoplifters “to avoid prosecution or incarceration by meaningfully engaging with services to help address underlying factors that lead to shoplifting.”
What “underlying factors” led gangs to steal hundreds of thousands worth of jewels or handbags, pack them up and walk away, or roll a trash can full of them down the street?
The root cause of the crime wave is a lack of consequences.
“Last year alone, 327 repeat offenders were responsible for 30 percent of the more than 22,000 retail thefts across our city.,” Adams noted.
Do the math. The variable after the equals sign is a complete lack of consequences in which criminals, steal, are arrested, get released, steal, get arrested, and do it until their arms get tired. Smarter criminals recruit teens with no formal criminal records to steal for them. They go from store to store in gangs while making sure that each gang member steals less than $1,000 from each individual store at one time even if the total haul is in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Get caught the first time and criminals don’t even have to “step foot in a courtroom”, they’ll just go to a “voluntary one-day program, which can take the form of an educational workshop and restorative justice circle” to “reflect on their actions.” So much for “meaningfully engaging”.
Then they’ll be signed up for every form of social services imaginable.
Get caught stealing again and the thieves will be subjected to RESTORE’s “variety of programming” including “educational modules” and “restorative justice exercises”.
By then many criminals may however voluntarily choose prison to avoid the exercises.
The city will “train retail workers in de-escalation tactics” so they don’t interfere with the shoplifters and will even add “resource kiosks” so that the criminals can apply for welfare without putting down the stuff they’re stealing.
The bold new strategy to go easy on shoplifters assumes that the criminals are motivated by “root causes” like “poverty” and “food insecurity”, but the report’s own statistics show that the vast majority of thefts are happening at chain stores, drug stores and department stores. Over 4,000 took place at clothing stores, more than at supermarkets and grocery stores combined.
Barely a thousand happened at supermarkets.
Numbers like these are why Target is projecting over a billion dollars in retail shrink losses and chain stores are closing in San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and other pro-crime cities.
We know what the root cause here is and it’s not poverty, it’s a lack of consequences.
There were 40,000 thefts in New York City before 2020 and around 65,000 last year. In the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, thefts more than doubled between 2020 and 2022. In Manhattan, they rose from 18,000 to almost 30,000.
That’s a statistic that can be credited to the newfound enthusiasm for pro-crime policies in the year of BLM. The criminal justice system no longer functions and the criminals know it.
So do the politicians. New York City’s retail theft report offhandedly mentions that, “egregious retail theft is carried out by organized groups of individuals, including those who exploit New York State law by stealing less than $1,000 worth of merchandise (as this dollar amount is generally punishable by a misdemeanor rather than a felony). These groups often commit brazen, multi-person, and sometimes violent raids on retail establishments to maximize the amount of goods they can steal in one instance.” This isn’t poverty, it’s organized crime that takes advantage of pro-crime legislation that legalized theft in New York and California.
New York shows what happens when consequences are replaced with social services.
Since New York’s pro-crime troika of Gov. Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, along with pro-crime DAs like Manhattan’s Alvin Bragg, are determined to keep the crime wave going, the law isn’t going to be changed and the laws won’t be enforced which means that the thievery will continue. If the consequences for stealing are a diversion program and a day of listening to lectures on how theft hurts the feelings of store owners and employees, the situation will only get worse.
Store owners and employees will be taught “de-escalation” which is “commonly used in policing” but “can also be applied in a more traditional customer service setting”. The push for de-escalation training originated with getting the police to stop enforcing the law. The presumption of de-escalation training is that law enforcement is the real problem. Now store owners and employees who have tried to fight back against thieves will be told that they are the real problem and that they need to de-escalate situations and avoid trying to protect their property.
The good news for store owners is that they’ll be allowed to “identify perpetrators of theft using surveillance cameras and then fill out the requisite form to NYPD” and then the NYPD will assemble a list of “top repeat offenders” that will, in some form, be available to store owners, but with a lower level of details about the perps so as not to “compromise privacy.”
The priority here will be protecting the privacy of the people ripping off stores.
Rather than enforcing the law, the Adams proposals will route criminals into the social services bureaucracy and funnel money to social services “providers”, often politically connected, to offer “educational services”, “restorative justice” and sign them up as lifelong clients. With providers doing a good deal of the screening, as many criminals as possible will be deemed eligible.
Since the providers tend to be local community organizations linked to the Democratic Party, these programs will incentivize more local crime to create more clients and provide a financial incentive for the party’s local movers and shakers to support pro-crime policies.
The thieves will no longer just be stealing from small businesses, they’ll also help community groups steal tax money from those same businesses to provide therapy to the thieves.
Chain stores will flee New York City, prices will rise everywhere else and the party’s community groups and activists will get richer from a social crisis that they created.
The only way to prevent crime is through consequences. New York has no consequences and so has no way to stop crime. Crime isn’t a social problem, it’s a moral problem. The Left rejects individual responsibility and argues that criminals are oppressed victims who suffer at the hands of an insensitive capitalist system. But crime is not a response to poverty. Dangerous areas of the city are poor because they suffer from a culture of criminality. Poverty doesn’t create crime, if it did, CEOs would never steal, crime creates poverty by destroying morals and economics.
A culture of criminality leads to a place where crime goes unpunished and public safety disappears. Individuals, knowing that there’s no law that will protect them, defend themselves. No broad prosperity is possible in such a state of lawless anarchy and misery. New York, having lost the broad prosperity of its middle class, is losing its upper class, leaving behind nothing.
Except restorative justice seminars for the thieves.