By Christian Nascimento
In 1994 Democrats in Congress passed a bipartisan crime bill that was – at the behest of influential pastors and 10 black mayors from cities such as Denver, Cleveland, Detroit and Atlanta – written to increase policing and lock up violent criminals. The bill passed and violent crime rates plummeted in cities across the country.
Today the woke left has made criminal justice reform a centerpiece of its agenda and has recategorized America’s successful approach to crime-fighting at the end of the 20th century as a racist exercise enacted by white politicians.
Whether you believe this to be the case or not, liberal leaders in cities across the country have wholeheartedly adopted this reimagination of criminal justice where protecting people from the police is all that matters.
They have become more sympathetic to criminals than to victims of violent crime. The product of this approach speaks for itself: Police are not making arrests. Prisons are emptying. Drugs are pervasive. Shootings are so common that most are not covered by the news.
We are suffering through a spike in violent crime identical to the height of the 1990s crack epidemic and – in spite of how most Americans feel (74% say crime in 2021 is up) – liberal politicians have convinced themselves that all is well.
Just in December Philadelphia’s anti-police prosecutor, Larry Krasner, shockingly proclaimed, “Basically we don’t have a crisis of lawlessness, we don’t have a crisis of crime, we don’t have a crisis of violence and that is a category that includes gun violence.” As Philadelphia suffered its highest-recorded homicide rate in 2021, around 2,300 people were shot. Within the first 3.5 hours of 2022, the crime spree continued as 14 people were shot, 2 of them killed.
The effect of this violence reverberates far beyond the inner city. It affects the whole of the Delaware Valley. Where my family lives in Montgomery County, many of us send our children into the city for school or for field trips. Our workers commute each day for their jobs. On the weekends we travel to Philadelphia to visit friends and family, museums, cafes, restaurants and sporting events. Philadelphia serves as the main artery to our area, and the infection of crime and violence affects all of us.
And what keeps Philadelphia criminals from making their way to Montgomery County and other counties bordering the city? Nothing. It’s only a matter of time before criminals with nothing to lose pursue targets outside of Philadelphia as city residents flee to the suburbs.
Government leaders’ denial of violent crime and refusal to prosecute criminals is particularly appalling if you are a survivor of violent crime or the family of victims who did not survive.
On Feb. 27, 1996 I was the victim of a violent incident that occurred in Chester. While having dinner with friends one evening, two men entered the restaurant with guns and robbed each patron. Our pockets were emptied. Guns were held to our heads. We were forced to the ground. None of us knew whether we would walk out of the building alive. It’s a night I still replay quite often, especially as I raise my four young children.
This feeling is terrifying. It’s a feeling I hope no one ever has to endure. But far too many people do suffer this horror every single day. And too many people do not escape with their lives as I did.
The men who robbed us were caught and arrested. I’m not at all confident that would be the case today – unless you’re Lady Gaga or a member of Congress.
Just like in the mid 1990s, we are staring down another real crisis of crime. If we want to put a stop to the drugs, to the violence, to the fear we face today, I believe we must look to the past for examples of what’s made our streets safe and our communities more prosperous:
• We must increase funding for our police, put more officers on the ground, allow them to do their job, and enforce our laws.
• Criminals must be taken off the streets and sent to prison when they break the law. This does not start with murder, but rather with crimes that degrade our communities and encourage an environment of criminality.
• Repeat offenders must face tougher sentencing and get locked up longer without options for quick and/or early release.
• We must put an end to the misguided belief that violent criminals must be protected from the police instead of the other way around.
• We must step up recruitment efforts for correctional officers as well as increase the pay and benefits for those who serve in these roles and are often outnumbered by prisoners 3-1.
Most people on both sides of the political aisle understand that punishing criminals makes communities safer. Most also understand that when violent criminals are not held accountable for their actions by police, no one is safe.
Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter succinctly summed up the job of Philly’s top cop to radio host Dom Giordano last month following Krasner’s tone-deaf remarks about the city’s murder rate:
“You’re the district attorney. The job is prosecution and justice.”
Well said. ••
Christian Nascimento is a candidate for Congress in the 4th Congressional District, which would include Bustleton and Pine Valley if a Commonwealth Court-selected map becomes law. A first-generation American, he was born and raised in Montgomery County and resides there with his wife and four children. He is a graduate of Villanova University and Widener University, and serves on Widener’s Board of Trustees. He is a technology and product executive, and previously served as the president of the Methacton School Board.