Tough on Crime 2.0: How Concerns about Crime Rates will Impact the 2022 Elections
The 2022 midterm elections are coming up quickly and the campaigning is in full swing. Rising Inflation, COVID-19, and the increasing partisan divide in the United States are all factors that make this election contentious and important to voters. However one issue has emerged this year that sounds reminiscent of 30-40 years ago. 56% of people say violent crime is a concern for them and they worry “a great deal” about crime in their communities. Rates of violent crime in this country have gone up slightly since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2022, these rates are nowhere near as high as they were in the 1990s or even as high as they reached in 2016. We also know now that the use of ‘violent crime’ in regards to these statistics is misleading and skews the numbers in a way that disadvantages people of color. Reports of crime sprees in major cities across the U.S are sensationalized and exaggerated to elicit fear from the populous. This fear-mongering and knee-jerk reaction to use policing to combat crime is what led to the mass incarceration crisis we are dealing with today. In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests and calls for defunding police departments across the nations, some citizens and right leaning politicians feel this is to blame for the uptick in crime and police departments won’t be able to properly deal with rising crime rates.
The timing of this discussion lining up with the 2022 midterms provides a pivotal moment in politics. Across the country, states and counties are facing elections where a candidate's stance on crime is crucial to their platform. In Santa Clara County in California, the district attorney seat is up for election and the current seat holder, Jeff Rosen, is facing challengers for the first time in over a decade. California is just one state where crime has affected its major cities and its people are demanding action from those in charge. In the race for mayor in Los Angeles, the demand for addressing crime has overtaken a usually progressive-dominated platform. In Oregon, the Portland City Council race has become very tense between two candidates for Commissioner. The two candidates: incumbent Jo Ann Hardesty and challenger Vadim Mozyrsky, identify as left leaning but have very different approaches to policing and crime in Portland. During her tenure, Hardesty has implemented a variety of reform strategies from creating police alternatives and introducing a community-led oversight system to monitor police activity. Vadim takes a more conservative approach and wants to prioritize protecting citizens from crime first and foremost. Needless to say whoever wins this election will have a noticeable impact on how Portland addresses crime and policing.
For President Biden, crime is a very pertinent issue given his history as a Senator. Biden takes full credit for his hand in passing the 1994 Crime Bill which was absolutely detrimental to communities of color and led to mass incarceration reaching a level never seen before. Biden has taken a lot of criticism for his role in this bill and while he hasn’t admitted regret for the passage of this legislation, he does recognize its fault and his responsibility in that. That being said, if concerns about crime come up to the federal level he will be very hesitant to pass such sweeping policies in response due to what is now perceived as the massive failures of the 1994 bill. Opponents could take this hesitancy and reluctance as an opportunity to claim Biden is soft on crime and attempt to win elections against him and the democrats. The people of the United States should take a lesson from the failures of this previous ‘tough on crime’ era and not let mistakes like that be made again. Our country and particularly our communities of color cannot afford to face another devastating increase in incarceration and increased levels of authority throughout the entire criminal legal system.