I gotta tell ya – nearly a week days later, I’m completely gobsmacked by the following paragraph in a June 30 New York Times article on New York City’s newly approved budget:
“To address a rise in shootings and homicides that have plagued the city since the pandemic, the city will spend $24 million to provide job training and support services to 1,000 people who are most at risk of participating in or being a victim of violence in neighborhoods including Brownsville, Brooklyn; South Jamaica, Queens; and Mott Haven in the Bronx.”
Granted, the spending barely moves the needle in the $98.7 billion plan for municipal outlays. But assuming the description is accurate, it’s difficult to imagine a program so deeply, and indeed tragicomically, weird in so many ways – not to mention one that so strongly reenforces doubt that the kinds of liberals and progressives who run cities like New York have a clue how to deal with crime. If your imagination is failing you on this score, ask yourself:
>The city is going to identify residents “who are most at risk of participating in…violence” in these crime-ridden precincts? Based on what? If the main or a major criterion concerns prior criminal records, including the commission of violent acts, what’s the rationale for putting any of these individuals ahead of anyone who’s “at risk of…being a victim of violence”? Like it’ll be tough to find 1,000 of these?
>If prior records aren’t being used, or prioritized, what other considerations will help decide who’s “most at risk of participating in…violence”? Are city officials going to seek out youngish African American and Hispanic men? That sounds like endorsing harmful racial stereotypes to me. Will they poll these or other residents and ask which ones are considering “participating in…violence”? And if they do, what happens to those respondents who raise their hands but aren’t selected? Do they get profiled by the police? Moreover, doesn’t that clear risk mean that few if any criminals-to-be are likely to come forward to begin with?
>As suggested above, the city is spotlighting these neighborhoods because crime is so widespread. So in principle, all adult residents are seriously at risk of “being a victim of violence.” But common sense indicates that the elderly and/or are likeliest to be targeted by thugs. Make that a double, lots of evidence indicates, for elderly Asian-Americans. Are many of them going to be channeled into job training programs?
>More fundamentally, helping the genuinely disadvantaged deserves applause. But when it comes to reducing violent crime, what’s the point of providing job training to its likely victims? They’re – obviously – not the ones prone to pulling triggers.
Unless maybe the assumption is that the populations of violent criminals and likely victims of violent crime overlap a lot (say, because gang members could easily fall into both categories)? But if so, to a great extent we’re back to the formidable-at-best challenge of reliably identifying likely violent criminals.
The city could have avoided all these questions – and the potentially fatal problems they spotlight – by simply announcing that the $24 million would be spent on creating more jobs and economic opportunity overall, and/or on improving education and other social services in crime-ridden neighborhoods. It could have even added that teenagers and young adults will be the focus – to increase the odds they’ll become success stories – and maybe that they’d be chosen by lottery or some other objective system.
Not that success would be guaranteed. But the outcome would doubtless be better than what New Yorkers evidently can expect (at least according to The Times description): token expenditures guided by nothing more than the most fatuous sort of good intentions.