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Reviews |  Slogans don’t save lives

Batiste, a former gang member, was profiled in 2017 in the Wall Street Journal. “I was a drug dealer, I was a thug, a con artist,” Batiste said. At the time of his death, he was working in his community to prevent more gang violence. He was 54 years old. Los Angeles suffered a 28% increase in the number of murders from 2019 to 2020, according to The Marshall Project. This year is likely to be worse.

In Portland, Oregon, a few weeks ago, there were nine separate shootings in just 16 hours. No one was killed, but two people were seriously injured.

Portland suffered 16 homicides in 2016, 25 in 2017, 26 in 2018, 35 in 2019 and 57 in 2020. As of September 1, with 62 homicides and 830 shootings, the city has broken previous records. The victims were disproportionately black. In 2020, 145 police officers resigned or retired from the Portland Police Department.

In the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York last month, Wayne Washington, 25, was killed after being shot several times in the chest, and a 19-year-old woman was shot in the chest. Hours later, a flurry of gunfire in the same neighborhood left two more dead and three injured.

East Brooklyn, home of the 75th Precinct, was once one of New York’s most violent neighborhoods, recording more than 100 homicides in a year. By 2018, the rate had almost fallen to zero, a fact I celebrated in a column called “Joe Biden: Be Proud of Your Crime Bill.” It was the 1994 bill that sought to fund 100,000 more cops, build more prisons, demand tougher sentences and impose a federal ban on assault weapons.

Despite all its shortcomings (and there were many), the bill, I wrote, pushed America “in the right direction: towards more policing and stricter enforcement and denial. powerful to continue to define criminal deviance in the face of those who said we just had to take it.

Re-reading this column feels like opening up a time capsule from a bygone era, when American cities were generally safe. Today you can walk down just about any street in a Liberal neighborhood and see signs or posters on the lawn proclaiming Black Lives Matter, sometimes alongside a picture of George Floyd.

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