Yesterday’s briefing kicked off a wide-ranging effort by CAP Action to educate the public about the scope—and true drivers—of rising crime and debunk myths wrongly assailing criminal justice reforms for increases in crime. It comes as the nation continues to grapple with a wave of mass shootings and in advance of the summer season, which has historically been associated with an increase in crime.
I want to cut right to the chase here: America has a violence problem, and we’re suffering through a spike in violent crime. This is a public policy problem. And that’s what CAP does: We lean into offering comprehensive solution sets to policy challenges, and through CAP Action, we try to inform the public and our elected leadership about some of the narrative challenges around that policy.
At CAP Action and at CAP, we know how to solve this problem of spikes in violence in America, but we are failing as a nation to solve this problem. Democrats in particular also have a political problem with crime. They should not. I want to be really clear about this: Democrats are at a disadvantage politically, but they should not be. They are the only party that’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep people safe. But for too long, they’ve been on the back foot. So here at CAP and CAP Action, we are launching this new effort to lean in as an institution and encourage our collective allies to do exactly the same.
This is urgent. People are dying unnecessarily every single day. Communities are under siege. Individual rights are being violated. And the election, where all of this is going to get litigated, is less than 5 months away.
To get into the heart of the matter and be clear as we revisit some of the nostalgia that some of our political friends have, let me be clear that the more cops, more prison “magic formula” on crime just doesn’t cut it. If that’s all it took, America would be the safest country in the world. But it’s not. Far from it. It’s clear, at least it should be clear for all of us, that we need more tools in our toolbox to effectively take on this crisis. Yes, we need police, and we all—as conservatives, moderates, and progressives—ought to be able to say that. We do need police and we do need prisons, but if I turned up to fix your roof with just a nail and hammer, you probably wouldn’t hire me. The American people rightly should have the same attitude when Democrats and Republicans talk about how they are going to stop the violence. Those tools are important, but we need more than them to solve this problem.
Democrats have those tools. They’ve championed community programs that have reduced violent crime by as much as 60 percent in some municipalities. They’ve led efforts to ensure law enforcement has the resources it needs—and they’re working hard to confront underlying problems in our society, like homelessness, mental health, and addiction. They’re doing what they need to do to stop violence before it starts. And when I go through the polling deck, you’ll see that the kinds of solutions Democrats have advanced are actually not only popular but are seen as being highly effective.
When it comes to gun violence in particular, Democrats have been leading the fight for stricter background checks, for extreme risk protection orders, for strong permitting laws, and more—actions that have the backing of the American people and of law enforcement.
MAGA Republicans, on the other hand, they’re not even coming at this problem with a nail and a hammer. They’re fixing a roof with a wrecking ball. Their “solutions” are actively making things worse. They’re arming teachers and weakening gun laws, despite express opposition from law enforcement.
And for all the fearmongering that we’re getting from them and their hollow rhetoric as the party of “law and order,” the reality is violent crime in GOP-dominated areas has gone up at pretty much the same rate, if not more.
In the reliably red city of Bakersfield, California, for example, the homicide rate was more than double that of San Francisco in 2020; in Fresno, it was triple!
Lexington and Oklahoma City have Republican mayors. They are located in Republican states, and yet they have murder rates that dwarf New York or L.A. per capita. This is a trend nationwide, so let’s put to bed the idea that Republicans have the answers—or that they even have the right sympathies.
And let’s put to bed the bullshit idea that progressive reforms are causing the rise in violence. For too long, politicians on both sides of the aisle, truth be told, have either been part of the problem by supporting a singular strategy of mass incarceration or were all-in for one vital part of the equation, like criminal justice reform.
Democrats need to show they are the only party for safety and for justice. They need to show they have all the tools in the toolbox to confront this challenge head-on.
And from what we’re seeing from the data, progressives shouldn’t shy away from this conversation. They need to be muscular in their approach. If MAGA Republicans center this in their attacks on Democrats in the fall, then the response should be simple: Bring it on.
Let’s not muddy the waters here. When it comes to what is happening versus perception of what is happening based on Republican fearmongering, it’s clear one party has solutions and the other is just making things worse.
So at CAP and CAP Action, we’re planning to do three things. One, work to change the conversation on crime to make it clear what is and what isn’t leading to the rise in violent crime. Two, we’re going to educate the public through conversations with media, like we’re having today, about the false attacks and false messaging around progressive reforms and, three, stress the reality that the rise in crime is a national problem, just as prevalent—if not more—in Republican states as in Democrat states.