Following the George Floyd protests which devolved into deadly riots that destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments, violent crime sparked in New York City last month. The Big Apple experienced a 130 percent increase in the number of shootings across the city between June 1 and June 30. Murders, burglaries, and auto thefts also shot up. Yet last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) suggested this violent crime was a reaction to the economic downturn due to coronavirus, rather than an outgrowth of the riots or the calls to defund and abolish police departments.
“Do we think this has to do with the fact that there’s record unemployment in the United States right now? The fact that people are at a level of economic desperation that we have not seen since the Great Recession?” AOC asked in a virtual town hall meeting on Thursday.
“Maybe this has to do with the fact that people aren’t paying their rent and are scared to pay their rent and so they go out, and they need to feed their child and they don’t have money so … they feel like they either need to shoplift some bread or go hungry,” Ocasio-Cortez added.
AOC did not address the destructive riots or the fact that protesters are demonizing police and calling for their abolition, demands that demoralize law enforcement and contribute to their withdrawal from the streets. Instead, the congresswoman complained that the NYPD operates with a $6 billion budget. Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a $1 billion cut to the police force, but that has not taken effect yet.
“Let me make something super clear for everyone,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “The New York City Police Department has not been defunded, even with these budgetary changes that were proposed in the city council. A.) They’re not fully enacted. B.) They aren’t a real $1 billion in cuts. C.) These cuts aren’t really real. And again, they haven’t even happened yet.”
AOC on increased NYC crime: "Maybe this has to do with the fact that people aren't paying their rent & are scared to pay their rent & so they go out & they need to feed their child & they don't have money so… they feel like they either need to shoplift some bread or go hungry." pic.twitter.com/oHSTWWJZ6a
— The Hill (@thehill) July 12, 2020
While Ocasio-Cortez was correct that the economic dislocation of the coronavirus lockdowns has hit people hard, she ignored the main drivers for the spike in violent crimes: the riots and the demoralization of police.
The criminals in New York did not just “shoplift some bread.” Murders, burglaries, and auto thefts should not be excused as mere acts of desperation. Police need more funding and support, not less, if they are to meet this spike in violent crime.
Sadly, it seems AOC cannot see law enforcement as anything but a tool of oppression.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.