December 5, 2021

JONATHAN TURLEY: Epidemic of smash-and-grab crime is definitely man-made.

Crime is raging across the country, from violent attacks to brazen shoplifting to mob “smash and grab” attacks. The White House this week had a simple answer for the cause of this rising lawlessness: It was not “defund the police” efforts, or more restrictive policies for police and prosecutors. It was the familiar scourge cited in debates ranging from infrastructure to supply chains to tax increases — the pandemic.

The pandemic now seems to have reached the mythic levels of gods who once were blamed for everything that went wrong in life. Africans had Anansi the Spider, while the Norse had the trickster Loki. Both were known to assume different identities to wreak disorder or steal precious things.

For politicians, it is useful to have a lurking Loki to explain that social problems are not really of their making, the result of their failures. The Loki factor was evident in the press conference this week when Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked about the rising lawlessness seen in major cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles: “Does the president still think that crime is up because of the pandemic?” White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied that “many people have conveyed that.”

Doocy persisted: “So when a huge group of criminals organizes themselves and they want to go loot a store — a CVS, a Nordstrom, a Home Depot until the shelves are clean — do you think that’s because of the pandemic?” Psaki replied: “I think a root cause in a lot of communities is the pandemic, yes.”

To be fair, there’s a connection in one sense: San Jose Spends COVID Aid to Fight Flash Mob Robberies. “The San Jose, Calif., city council has approved spending a portion of COVID-19 pandemic funds in an effort to combat smash-and-grab robberies in the Bay Area, according to CBS affiliate KPIX. The city council unanimously voted to allocate $250,000 of pandemic funds toward license plate readers (LPRs). The $250,000 came from the $18.3 million the city received from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act, according to KPIX.”

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