The Politics Of Crime

There’s a reason for that old journalism mantra “if it bleeds, it leads.” Most people are concerned about their own safety, for one thing, and are more likely to read about threats that might affect them. And crime is (superficially) straightforward and easy to understand. Good guys versus bad guys.

The characteristics that explain media’s focus on crime also apply to political campaigns, particularly at the local level. Here in Indianapolis, the Republican candidate for mayor has run a campaign almost entirely focused on the incumbent’s asserted inability to reduce criminal activity, insisting that he–the Republican–“has a plan.”  (Presumably, the incumbent doesn’t?) 

This campaign strategy–and the interminable advertisements hawking it–really annoys me.

For one thing, it ignores the fact that criminal activity in Indianapolis is hardly unique; our problems mirror national ones. This single-minded and exaggerated focus on crime also ignores the multiple other areas of governance that a mayor is responsible for providing. (Listening to those ads, you’d be forgiven for thinking this guy is running for sheriff, not mayor.)

Of course, the campaign in Indianapolis is pretty standard GOP strategy. The “law and order” party (a label that–given MAGA and Donald Trump–makes sentient Americans laugh) continues to scream about crime–which it almost always attributes to urban areas. (After all,  Blue cities are where most of those scary Black folks live…)

The data begs to differ.

Republican politicians often treat it as an established fact: Where they are in power, crime is low. Where Democrats are in power, crime is high.

“Republican-run cities are doing very nicely because they arrest people when you have crimes,” Donald Trump told Tucker Carlson last week.

“The cities and these left-wing states allowing criminals to run wild on our streets, that doesn’t work,” Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, said in March, citing New York in particular.

But party rule does not drive crime. Consider DeSantis’s state, Florida. Its homicide rate was roughly 50 percent higher than New York’s in 2021. Florida’s two most populous cities, Jacksonville and Miami, each had a homicide rate more than double New York City’s last year, even though both had Republican mayors.

 As the article points out, the data shows no connection between political partisanship and crime. “To put it another way, prominent Republicans are misrepresenting the country’s crime problem.”

The linked article referenced a number of reasons for America’s stubborn crime rates, especially the widespread availability of guns.

Access to guns is another major factor, particularly for murders. Guns make any conflict more likely to escalate into deadly violence, and they can embolden criminals. On this issue, there is a partisan divide — Democrats are more comfortable regulating firearms — and that could help explain higher levels of violence in Republican states, especially in the South. It can also explain violence in cities, which get a lot of guns from Southern states with laxer laws.

Indiana’s legislature, which is dominated by rural interests and which includes a number of members who are widely considered “gun nuts,” has ensured that the Hoosier state’s gun laws are as lax as those of any Southern state, if not more. 

Mike Leppert recently had a column on the costs of that laxity. In the wake of the last mass shooting, he wrote 

We don’t ever talk about what it all costs. No, in most circles, it doesn’t get a mention. An accounting of the cost of guns is rarely undertaken, and when it is, the numbers are so shocking and enormous, the study usually falls victim to the post-truth era in which we live.

After confirming that in the year since “permitless” carry became the law in Indiana, gun related crime increased, Leppert wrote

As reported by Casey Smith of the Indiana Capital Chronicle on Aug. 21, accidental shootings are on the rise. Smith wrote: “Since July 2022, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) has been tracking accidental shootings, specifically. IMPD found non-fatal, accidental shootings more than doubled in February 2023 compared to February averages in the last 5 years. There were as many as 75 such incidents for the last half of 2022, and more than 75% of those were self-inflicted.”

There’s a cost to each one of them. Medical costs. Emergency responses. Productivity loss….

Everytown Research and Policy published its sweeping report on the cost of guns in July of last year. The number? $557 billion annually, or nearly $1,700 for every resident in America.  Not every gun owner. Not every NRA member. Every resident….

What does culture get for this Faustian bargain? Gun owners get freedom. They get a false sense of safety and security. They get identity.

The rest of us just get the tab.

And Republican candidates supported by the NRA get dishonest talking points…..


  1. I get so frustrated with the crime series on local news that I just record the news, and then fast forward through all those stories (AND commercials) until I get to news I can use.

    Police reports enable reporters to sit in their officers or cars, listen to the police radio, and report the stories. Other news takes real presence, investigation, and reporter time. Hence, stations save money and the cost of extra reporters by just listening to the police radio and mimicking their reports. It has sufficiently reduced news to crime reporting and reduced my listening to it. So many of my friends tune out altogether.

  2. Misrepresentation = LYING.
    As the article points out, the data shows no connection between political partisanship and crime. “To put it another way, prominent Republicans are misrepresenting the country’s crime problem.”

    Republicans lie. It’s all they have. They have no intention to govern for the people, only to amass power. That power brings in money to the dolts who pay off Republicans… and some Democrats. But mostly it’s about bribing Republicans. They come cheaply and are easy to turn. End of story.

    As far as city politics goes: Denver, where I live, votes over 80% Democrat. But they go overboard too. The city has spent millions on bike-friendly infrastructure that helps snarl auto traffic while potholes grow in size and number. Electric scooters are posted with messages that say: “Do not ride scooters on sidewalks”. Sure. My wife and I have frequently had to jump out of the way of these damned thing while walking to or from a baseball game. The homeless rate in Denver is huge – over 10,000 known homeless. Nationwide, the homelessness that adds to crime, both petty and grand, plus the vermin like rats that attach themselves to these encampments. Our Democratic mayor wants to build mini-neighborhoods in empty lots across the city. Sure. So where will these homeless people go to panhandle or dumpster dive? And while I’m ranting, why are so many traffic signals not tied to traffic flow? How many of us sit at traffic lights waiting for the cross-traffic that never comes; fuel burns for no apparent reason.

    My point is that neither Republicans or Democrats really have a grasp on governing for the best-interests of the community they represent. Why? Well, maybe it’s because we are so diverse everywhere and the tribal prejudices still haunt all our brains despite make intellectual leaps to accepting and incorporating that diversity. So, until the bleed/lead continuum is replaced with something less sanguine, I fear that city “management” will continue to deteriorate in the wake of increasingly sharp political partisanship.

  3. Democrats also understand that people on either side want to be able to protect themselves. Black gun owners are appearing at community meetings stating they are a part of the NRA too!

  4. Facts: Israel is an “Apartheid State” – by virtually any, if not every definition of the word. Fact: US’s treatment of Israel – is strongly supportive of its Apartheid State. Does this mean that we don’t care? Does this mean that “The Facts” will lead us to a substantial policy change where we don’t – Pay Israel – and support its Apartheid? Probably not – at least as far in the future as I can see.
    Relevance: Facts – are NOT what drives us – in significant ways. Feelings – particularly our fears and how they are – messaged to us – commonly drives our policies. Republicans – message very well on our fears. Democrats – fumble – and argue facts much of the time.

    “Socialism” + “The Dangers of Trans People” – the latter often moving ahead of our fears of “Immigrants” and “Muslims”.

    I could say more – but this is enough!

  5. When I first went to DC, the Secretary asked us to study homelessness. He was interested in finding the most effective way to solve it. We found that the best option as a first step was to find a place to house them. Give them an address. That way, if they apply for work, there is an address where they can be reached. The next step was assess their clinical needs and provide the care they need. The homeless are often suffering from severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. They are also frequently suffering from addiction.

    So, if we know this, why aren’t we fixing it? There are two reasons. We don’t want to pay for it and we need immediate gratification. It’s that simple. Anything that adds to taxes is anathema to most Americans. While other countries make long term plans, we seem unable to do anything that doesn’t show immediate results and even if some parts do show promise, we are perfectly happy to throw the baby out with the bath water.

  6. People go to car races to see wrecks but not be in them. So they buy tickets to pay for the modern version of watching lions kill Christians – expensive drivers driving expensive cars going as fast as humanly possible babysat by expensive pit crews. Or for more more reliable violence, football games, or watching street fighting in a ring.

    Another form of bloodsport is crime reporting on our screens announced by reporters retelling (especially) black on black violent crime. We used to tell the good cowboys from the bad by the color of their hats but skin color is another way.

    Other humans struggling to survive and occasionally loosing reminds us of our superiority at surviving.

    Effective full contact political postering from advertising on those same screens pats our collective heads and rewards us for our efforts to rise above.

    Being human is more comfortable than jungle living recalled deeply subconsciously from our distant roots. That makes us predictable as sources of wealth to redistribute up.

  7. Data, evidence, facts; none of these matter a whit to MAGA followers.
    Here is an interesting fact, apropos to R’s and their love of all things guns: the gin manufacturer Fostech, in southern Indiana, as a gesture of solidarity, made an offer to every GOP member in the Indiana legislature for a deeply discount price for their AR-15 style rifle. The company also makes a product they call the “Echo Trigger” which fires a bullet when the trigger is pulled and when the trigger is released. And they did not have to disclose the offer as a gift because they are not lobbyists. Isn’t that interesting.

  8. Sheila’s last comment sticks in my mind. Gun owners get identity. That says a lot about a large contingent of the population, doesn’t it?

  9. Our urban centers are full of politicians and are the least safe places for citizens. As Vern said above, it doesn’t seem to matter who the elected mayor may be. Why aren’t conclusive studies for each metro area in the USA with concrete facts, figures, and recommendations? You know, living, breathing studies?

    I’ve heard the NRA prevents these studies about crime and violence. F*** the NRA!

    Every community is unique, so an independent study could be replicated with roadmaps on how well they accomplish their goals. All I see is reactionary wishes and haphazardly assembled policies.

  10. Republicans celebrate the rise in crime as they loosen gun laws. The gullible and ignorant “base” is convinced that there’s no connection between the number of guns and crime and just not enough people are armed to prevent all of this bloodshed and murder. With the right wing propaganda machine working full tilt, trivial things like facts aren’t going to change people’s minds.

    Sherif Shreve is going to have a rude awakening when he discovers how little of the short end of the stick he has been given by the state legislators. The disconnect between Indy’s need and its tax income is real. The huge influx of federal dollars in the last few years seems to be making a real difference.

    But when it comes to crime, the real influencer is going to be changes in state and national gun laws and unless there is a huge sweep in the next few elections, I’m not holding my breath.

  11. Dan, nothing stops crime like a good guy with a gun confronting a bad guy with a gun.

    Catchy campaign slogan, don’t you think?

  12. Dopamine, folks. There’s a reason why football is now “America’s game” instead of baseball. Why “action” movies far outnumber human ones. Why violent crime makes the news and random acts of kindness don’t. That’s easy.

    What isn’t is when “white color” crimes and pure corruption (like the billions stolen from “rescue” plans) get yawns – as does the Former….

  13. We were taught in law school that there are no common law crimes anymore; that all crimes are either statutory or they are not crimes. I have had time to reflect upon this position and think it is a neat means of criminal management and definition, but when added to other definitions of what I consider immunity to criminal liability by reason of one’s station, I’m beginning to wonder – and that doesn’t make me a Guy Fawkes aficionado.

    Thus, for instance, we have the recent adoption of permitless carry in Florida, which by every study known to man will increase the number of dead tourists, residents, those prone to suicide et al., studies known to the governor of Florida, DeFascist, but who in his attempt to appeal to Trump’s base in his quest for the presidency prevailed upon Florida’s legislature to pass this legalized Tombstone death rattle via the usual NRA propaganda. He is Florida’s governor, and what he did was done under the auspices of policy making, which immunizes him from such otherwise criminal liability charges as reckless homicide or involuntary manslaughter.

    I’m beginng to think Guy was on to something, though like Marx, he had the right diagnosis but the wrong medicine. I think the conduct of Florida’s legislature and governor can reasonably be either defined as criminal or one step short, but there is no statute declaring such to be so. Query as to whether those who make the rules can decriminalize their own conduct, and when has it ever been “policy” to kill people short of war or execution for crime?

  14. Find me hopeless, scared, hungry, powerless, angry, desperate human beings and you will most likely find crime (or war, or both). Duh.

    So what are the root causes of those attributes above, especially when we see them in the same community?

    As stated many times, already, in this comment section “root causes” of nearly any serious social issue are RARELY researched and studied, much less acted upon, especially in a culture and society groomed and brainwashed (from birth) on MONEY and CONSUMERISM at all cost… literally at all cost.

    Speaking of brainwashed and being groomed, we Americans worship INDIVIDUALISM and so-called “Free Will.” We speak “evil” of communism, socialism and “taking a village to raise a child.” As long as we continue to teach and drink from the cesspool of individualism over and against community (sports “teams” not withstanding) in America and all the so-called “values” attached to such brainwashing, it will be tough (understatement) to see any honest and direct way of dealing with our issues of crime.

  15. I usually don’t respond to tolling posts – but
    George Marx – ‘Facts: Israel is an “Apartheid State”’
    An Apartheid State is one imposed by a colonial power on an indigenous population to keep them separate based upon race.
    Israel may have an imperfect democracy (while it lasts) but by law, Arab citizens are equal. Israel is not a colonial power. It was founded by Jews, the descendants of — oh yes, Judeans, that last independent state in the region.
    Of course, if Israel is an Apartheid State, then Jews have no business being there. As the UN once stated “All peoples have the right to self-determination – except the Jews – in that case it is racism”. That is the main reason this lie is repeated so often.

    Also, genetically, “Palestinian” Arabs, are more closely related to the Jews (both descended from peoples living in the area 2,000 years ago) than they are to their “Arab brothers” who placed them in squalid internment camps and had them declared “refugees in perpetuity”
    Natanyahu is a crook – probably true
    He is filling his cabinet with racists – that is a fact
    He is set to destroy the only democracy in the Middle East – also a fact

    Now to the main topic.

    I thought Shreve was running for Mayor of Tijuana (current reigning murder capital) or Cabot Cove, Maine (fictional murder capital of all time).

    Republicans have long repeated two lies:
    1) Crime always increases under Democrats
    2) The economy is always terrible under Democrats

    Sadly, too many people believe the often repeated lies (and the often spans my entire life).

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