Posted on February 28, 2020

Is New York Too Soft On Crime? An Interview with Crime Expert and Author Heather Mac Donald

Elliot Resnick, Jewish Press, February 26, 2020


To learn more about bail reform and crime in New York – topics that have become particularly important to Orthodox Jews in recent months – The Jewish Press spoke to Heather Mac Donald. {snip}

The Jewish Press: Liberals argue that bail laws needed to be changed because they discriminated against blacks and Hispanics. How do you respond?

Mac Donald: That claim is transforming our entire world right now. It’s the idea that a color-blind neutral practice must – by definition – be racist if it has a disparate impact on a protected minority group. But that is almost always a lie.

The problem is that the black and Hispanic crime rate is much, much higher than that of other groups. So there’s almost no criminal justice practice – whether it’s making arrests, investigating suspicious behavior, or sentencing – that doesn’t have a disparate impact on blacks and, to a lesser extent, Hispanics. The only way to avoid having a disparate impact is getting rid of criminal laws entirely.

The left’s argument is that bail isn’t fair since poor people can’t always afford bail, and blacks have a higher poverty rate than whites.

That’s not a race issue. It’s an economic issue.

But what is the criminal justice system supposed to do? It faces the world as we know it. In the world as we know it, there are socioeconomic gaps and crime gaps, so any neutral practice that targets criminals is going to have a stronger impact on blacks and Hispanics. The only way to avoid that is to not have criminal laws.


You’ve written that 97 percent of shootings in New York are committed by blacks or Hispanics and that this statistic explains why a wrongful police shooting usually has a black or Hispanic victim. First, can the figure of 97 percent really be accurate? It seems extraordinarily high. Second, can you explain your argument about wrongful shootings in greater detail?

The 97 percent figure comes from the victims of, and witnesses to, shootings. These people are themselves overwhelmingly black or Hispanic. It’s what they report to the police, so this isn’t data that’s filtered through the allegedly racist NYPD. It’s data given by people in the community.

That disproportion is found in every single American city. The face of violent street crime today in America is black and brown, period. Whites are not committing drive-by shootings. It’s as simple as that.

In Chicago, blacks and whites are each about a third of the population. Blacks commit 80 percent of all shootings and homicides. Whites, less than 1 percent. In St. Louis, blacks and whites are each about 42 percent of the population; blacks commit about 100 percent of all homicides.

This is simply the reality of crime. And if this is surprising to people, they should blame the media because they are doing a very good job of keeping these numbers outside of the public eye.

And yes, what predicts police shootings is rates of violent crime. Given the fact that violent street crime today in America is overwhelmingly committed by blacks and, to a lesser extent, Hispanics, the rate at which blacks are shot by police is completely predictable by the crime rates.

In fact, they’re actually being shot by the police at a lower rate than their rates of violent crime would predict.

People commonly assume that blacks dislike the police, but in The War on Cops, you argue interestingly that the opposite is true. Can you elaborate?

I’ve spent a lot of time going to police community meetings in high-crime minority neighborhoods, and I’ve yet to hear anyone at these meetings complaining about police brutality or excessive stops. Instead, what I inevitably hear is, “We want more police,” “We want the kids who are fighting off the corners,” “I smell marijuana in my hallway – why can’t you do something about it?”


You write interestingly in The War on Cops that a hands-off policing attitude was actually the NYPD’s old attitude in the pre-civil rights era. Its attitude was: “Blacks are killing each other – why should we interfere?”

Absolutely. The police tolerated a certain level of homicide and [would only come in afterwards] to take the body away.

Now, policing is truly color-blind. The police go where people are being victimized. {snip}

{snip} Do you favor the law having a separate set of punishments for hate crimes?

I think it’s questionable – because it’s going to be a political judgment. The fact of the matter is a lot of black-on-white crime has some kind of animosity involved in it. Starting in the ‘60s, [you had] the kind of ghetto kid that hated “crackers” and said, “Get whitey,” [and more recently you had] the knockout game and flash mobs beating up whites.

I think it would be quite naïve to think there wasn’t some kind of subliminal racial element in these crimes, but very rarely are they characterized as such. Nobody wants to talk about it. They only want to have a white supremacist perpetrator. I think we can make do with [one set of] criminal laws.