Dear Liberals: Safety Isn't Only For The Wealthy

A common misconception drives too much of the crime debate.

One of the most common things I hear in any debate about crime is the claim that “root causes” — most commonly, economic factors — are driving people to anti-social behavior. Unless we address these root causes, this narrative goes, we really can’t make much progress on the battle against crime.

There is some truth to this narrative. Poorer communities often do have higher rates of certain kinds of crime, such as the interpersonal violence represented by homicides and shootings.

Maya Wiley, the New York City mayoral candidate progressives have converged on as their last ditch attempt to prevent a moderate victory, summarizes the economics argument below:

But there’s also a sort of fatalism within this claim. If crime, including violent crime, is largely an outgrowth of economic conditions, there really isn’t much we can do about it unless we fundamentally change those underlying economic conditions. Yet the poverty rate in the United States is fairly stubborn; economic inequality keeps going up and up. If the only way to tackle violence is to address these economic factors, we’re in for a bad time because we haven’t been doing a very good job.

The good news is, this isn’t true.

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