White House, FBI Clash Over Cause of Increase in Violent Crime

The rise in violent crime has many people searching for causes. The issue is particularly important in New York City, where recent reports indicate a disturbing rise in a number of violent crimes. They include the following:

  • Murder – Up by 8.3% over last year.
  • Rape – Up by 5.8% over last year.
  • Misdemeanor sex crimes – Up by 18% over last year.

For those who follow the trends, these are some pretty significant statistics. Naturally, people are looking to pin the blame on someone or something, and FBI Director James Comey is no exception. He apparently has some interesting thoughts on the matter, which he revealed during a speech at the University of Chicago last Friday. Comey said that while many factors may contribute to the rise in violent crime, the most important reason was the so-called “Ferguson effect.” That’s the notion that cops are afraid to get out of their squad cars because of fear that they would be caught on video.

If Comey’s theory surprises you, you’re not alone. On Monday, the White House reaction was clear. At the daily briefing, press secretary Josh Earnest said the evidence does not support the theory. In response to questions, Comey has also admitted that he has no evidence to back up his statement; rather, he says, he’s been told by some police officers that fear of being videotaped was affecting policing.

What’s wrong with the theory? First, it seeks to place the blame for crime on those who protest police misconduct. Second, as the FBI Director has admitted, there’s no evidence to back it up. And third, does it really make any sense? The theory assumes that if police officers know they’ll be taken to task for using excessive force, for example, there will be more rapes and murders. We’ve looked at the argument that increased scrutiny of the police causes more violent crime, and we’re simply unable to find much logic in it. It also detracts from other, more plausible arguments for the spike in crime, such as economic factors and easy access to guns.

George Vomvolakis Law Offices
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New York, NY 10016
(212) 682-0700