According to FBI Director Christopher Wray, murder is up 29% in the U.S. The murder of police officers is up 59%. Why?
“In 2020, there was a 29% jump in murder in the United States, nearly 5,000 more people killed than the year before,” 60 Minutes host Scott Pelley reminded FBI Director Christopher Wray during a recent in-depth interview.
“What is behind this leap in homicide?” Mr. Pelley asked.
In April of 2022, FBI Director Wray made a rare appearance on the perennial news program, where he discussed a number of pressing U.S. security issues, including the subject of rising crime in America.
“Certainly the pandemic didn’t help,” answered Wray. “There’s a variety of ways in which that contributed to it. We’re certainly seeing more and more juveniles committing violent crime, and that’s certainly an issue. We’re seeing a certain amount of gun trafficking, interstate gun trafficking- that’s part of it. And we’re seeing an alarming frequency of some of the worst of the worst getting back out on the streets.”
“In 2021, there was a 59% increase in the murders of police officers, 73 officers killed,” Pelley pressed, asking, “why are more officers being killed right now?”
“Violence against law enforcement in this country is one of the biggest phenomena that I think doesn’t get enough attention,” Mr. Wray responded. “Last year, officers were being killed at a rate of almost one every five days.”
“Some of it is tied to the violent crime problem as a whole,” Wray went on, “but one of the phenomena that we saw in the last year is that an alarming percentage of the 73 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty last year were killed through things like being ambushed or shot while out on patrol.”
Wray is absolutely correct: Covid19 alone did not cause the rise in violent crime. Crime actually fell in other countries during Covid19.
“A new analysis of crime rates in 27 cities across 23 countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East has found that stay-at-home policies during the pandemic led to an overall drop in police-recorded crime of 37% across all the sites in the study,” reported Fred Lewsy for Cambridge University.
Nor is the rise in violent crime spread evenly across the U.S.
“The effects are felt unequally across the country,” allowed German Lopez for the New York Times in January of 2022. “Shootings are historically concentrated in impoverished, minority communities. In a typical U.S. city, a small segment of neighborhoods account for most of the violence.”
Addressing the root causes of this surge in violent crimes will be key to reversing the troubling trend.
Gun trafficking is something Wray mentioned specifically. Delicately, he avoided mentioning from whence the flood of illegal guns, including the untraceable “ghost guns” Chicago is battling, is flowing. The vast majority of illegal guns are not being obtained through conventional or legal means; they aren’t being purchased from legitimate retailers. There hasn’t been a rash of thefts from legal gun owners or gun stores.
Illegal guns, like deadly fentanyl and an upsurge in human trafficking which has made the U.S. southern border a humanitarian crisis of dire proportions, are flowing into the country from its southern border.
Stemming the tide of illegal guns, drugs and human trafficking inundating the border has nothing whatsoever to do with immigration. Conflating the two is tying the hands of Democrats who would otherwise be only too eager to help would-be U.S. immigrants by addressing a gauntlet of violence and exploitation.
This sharp rise in the murder of police officers is not likely to improve the rates of violent crime across the nation. On the contrary. Already, police departments in major cities from Seattle to Chicago are facing critical staff shortages. The recruiting of new officers has also been greatly diminished.
Whether or not the amount of animosity directed at law enforcement officers from protestors and the press in the immediate aftermath of the murder of George Floyd played any role in this sharp rise in on-duty officer deaths is almost impossible to determine with certainty.
It is, however, hard to imagine Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests, didn’t play some role in the deterioration of working conditions for police officers, most of whom have never even fired their service weapons outside the shooting range, let alone killed an unarmed man in the line of duty.
There is plenty of room for reform in America’s criminal justice system. Focusing the ire of the anti-police movement on the lowest rungs in the law enforcement ladder never made much sense.
Beat cops are usually the lowest-paid members of law enforcement; and the most vulnerable. Worse, their power to change things in the legal system is commensurate with their low pay.
What can turn this trend around before things get worse?
“Can you say you’re making any headway in violent crime?” Pelley asked FBI Director Wray.
“We are working very hard with our partners, state and local law enforcement partners, through task forces, task forces all over the country,” Wray answered. “And through surging rapid deployment teams to try to combat violent crime in specific hot spots. Last year I think we arrested something like 15,000 violent gang members around the country.”
“And part of what fuels us to pursue this mission is our deep conviction that law enforcement’s most sacred duty is to ensure that people can live free from fear in their own homes and neighborhoods,” Mr. Wray concluded.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)