Category Archives: Crime and corrections

“I Love Mankind. It’s Just People I Can’t Stand.”

Counter protesters professing their love of humanity. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

On Sept. 9, 12-year-old Bethany Harper and her nine-year-old friend Solai Coleman were sitting on the front porch of their house on Fifth Avenue in Richmond. Bethany heard the crackling pop of gunfire, and a random bullet struck Solai in the hip.

“We had nothing to do with the transaction [that led to the shooting] Saturday, but they shot at our children” Bethany’s father Thomas told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We have a new rule in this house: ‘You’re not allowed to go beyond this line,’ he said, planting his foot on the front of the family’s wooden porch.

The number of killings in Richmond has surged this year, reaching 59 so far compared with 45 at the same point last year, which itself was the worst in a decade. Many victims are innocent bystanders. So far, the 2016-17 school year has seen 25 students in Richmond city schools shot, along with a one-year-old child of two students. Fourteen others were victims of aggravated assault or malicious wounding.

No one will hold a vigil for Solai Coleman. No one will protest the injustice of criminal actions that confine Bethany Harper to the inside of her home. There will be no marches, no placards, and no made-for-TV media spectacles. Apparently, black lives don’t matter when the killers are black. Black lives matter only when the shooter is white or a police officer. Or when when the sight of Civil War statues offend the sensibilities of those who view the world through the filter of white oppression.

The Times-Dispatch ran the article about Coleman’s shooting atop the front page of its Sunday edition. With no sense of irony, it published underneath an article about a Saturday rally around the Robert E. Lee statue that drew about seven pro-Confederate, heritage-not-hate types and a crowd of counter protesters estimated to be a couple hundred in number.

The counter protesters were incensed by the handful of neo-Confederates (most of whom came from out of state), just as they are incensed by the KKK, Nazis, white supremacists, President Trump, and “haters” generally. But neo-Confederates didn’t shoot Solai Coleman. Nazis didn’t shoot her. The KKK didn’t shoot her. Nor did white hate groups shoot any of the other 59 homicide victims in Richmond this year. Aside from occasional vigils held by victims’ family members and immediate neighbors, however, the social justice warriors have not ginned up much outrage or marched in protest of the black-on-black slaughter in Richmond’s inner city.

If the social justice warriors cared about real people instead of abstractions like “institutional racism,” which serve mainly to validate their sense of moral superiority, they would volunteer to tutor inner-city school children. Or befriend an adolescent through the Big Brother/Big Sister program. Or pound nails with Habit for Humanity to build affordable housing. Or ladle out soup in a community kitchen to serve the hungry. Or help felons build a productive life outside jail. But that takes real effort, sustained effort. And it’s not nearly as rewarding as virtue signalling to your peers how politically correct you are or venting about the evils of KKK/Fascists/Trump.

As an aside, I have to commend Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Police Chief Alfred Durham for making sure that the Richmond rally didn’t turn into another Charlottesville. They made it clear from the very beginning that violence would not be tolerated, and they worked to separate the protesters from the counter-protesters. By broadcasting their intent, they snuffed out interest in the rally by right- and left-wing radicals looking to bang heads and make headlines long before the event took place. Job well done.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

The Charlottesville City Council, City Manager and Police Chief have been tearing themselves apart with blame shifting as citizens demand accountability for the passive behavior of the police force that appeared to “stand down” as the white supremacist rally on Aug. 12 spiraled out of control. Nexus Caridades Attorneys Inc., an Augusta County law firm focusing on social justice issues, announced its intention to file suit against the city for failing to intervene. And at a town hall meeting last week, a crowd of some 300 gathered to vent social justice concerns and lacerate city officials for their failure to prevent the violence.

So, it was with particular interest that I read the Richmond Times-Dispatch article today explaining how the Charlottesville police had changed its tactics during the Aug. 12 rally after receiving a similarly blistering criticism from the social-justice set for its “militarized response” to a a previous KKK rally on July 8.

In the smaller July rally, which never received much attention outside Charlottesville because no one was injured or killed, the KKK presence protesting the remove of the Robert E. Lee statue had prompted a counter rally. As Ned Oliver and Graham Moomaw described the event:

Police officers outfitted with riot helmets and shields formed two lines, parting the sea of anti-racist protesters to create a path for the Klan. After the KKK rally was over, riot police formed up to disperse protesters lingering in the road, eventually firing three tear gas canisters to force the crowd to leave.

Notably, there were no deaths or injuries in July. But that didn’t prevent a storm of outrage among the social justice warriors. Activists and residents berated Council at its next meeting. Writes the T-D:

“We have profound concerns with the militarized law enforcement presence on July 8, with police wearing riot gear, driving armored vehicles and carrying weapons typically reserved for war zones,” said Mary Bauer, the executive director of the LegalAid Justice Center and one of a dozen speakers to criticize the city’s handling of the KKK rally.

“We ask the city to acknowledge that this choice to use these kinds of tactics instead of planning for de-escalation is inconsistent with Charlottesville’s values and good policing. …

At the same meeting activist Jalane Schmidt handed [Mayor Mike] Signer an emptied tear gas canister she said had been launched at her during the really. “You dropped something, councilor,” she said. … “This has to stop, this militarization of the police. When there’s militarization, the inevitable result is violence. To a hammer, everything’s a nail.”

And to a social justice warrior, everything’s a cause for outrage. No matter what the police do, they’re wrong.

As it turns out, the Charlottesville police appear to have taken the criticisms to heart. They did not gear up for a riot. They did not physically separate the white supremacists from the anarchists. They did not intervene until the rally descended into chaos. The result: a couple dozen people were injured and a young woman died.

So, the list of parties who bear a share of the blame for the disastrous outcome on Aug. 12 gets ever longer. First and foremost, we can blame the mostly out-of-state white supremacists for organizing the rally, spewing bile, acting in a deliberately provocative manner, and coming ready to rumble. Secondly, we can blame the Leftist anarchists who came to town spoiling for a fight — and giving the white supremacists someone to rumble with. Thirdly, we can blame the non-violent social justice warriors for creating the political conditions that caused the police to back away from its previously successful strategy. And fourthly, we can blame the city officials who, despite an explicit warning from the Department of Homeland Security that both the far Right and far Left were gearing up for a violent confrontation, cravenly capitulated to the demands of the social justice crew.

Welcome to Virginia in the 21st century.

Authorities Warned about Charlottesville Clashes

State and local officials had plenty of warning before the infamous white-supremacist rally that led to a fatality and multiple injuries earlier this month. Politico quotes a Department of Homeland Security warning that an escalating series of clashes had created a powder keg that would likely make the event “among the most violent to date” between white supremacists and anarchists.

The assessment, says Politico, “raises questions about whether Charlottesville city and Virginia state authorities dropped the ball before, and during, a public event that was widely expected to draw huge crowds of armed, emotional and antagonistic participants from around the country.”

The Aug. 9 assessment by the DHS Office of Intelligence and analysis, was made in coordination with state, local and federal authorities at the Virginia Fusion center. “Anarchist extremists” had attacked white supremacists at previous gatherings, leading to fights, injuries and arrests.

Both sides were clearly gearing up for an unprecedented confrontation in the weeks leading up to the Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” rally and a weekend of events planned around it by white supremacist rally organizers and those protesting it.

“Anarchist extremists and white supremacist extremists online are calling on supporters to be prepared for or to instigate violence at the 12 August rally,” the assessment warned.

One “probable” white supremacist, it said, had posted an online “call to arms,” saying “antifa must be destroyed.”

“They predicted it,” one senior law enforcement analyst from another state said of the assessment. Each side was saying, “’All right everybody, go get your weapons, and we’re gonna go kick their asses.’ And that’s exactly what happened in Charlottesville.”

Bacon’s bottom line: This revelation puts more heat on state and local authorities to explain their actions on Aug. 12. Why did the police remain passive for so long? Could they have averted the tragedy by intervening earlier, more aggressively, or differently?

Any inquiry into the events on that fateful day should be viewed in the context of the moral posturing by Charlottesville’s mayor and Virginia’s governor denouncing the white supremacists (who richly deserved the criticism) without mentioning the contribution of “anti-fascist” elements to the violence. No one takes a political risk excoriating Nazis and racists — 99% percent of all Americans would agree. But rebuking Antifa and other anarchists… that’s not so easy. Many Americans are ambivalent, especially on the Left. While they may not approve of Antifa’s violent tactics, some politicians and pundits seem to think the nihilist group’s anti-Nazi, anti-KKK, anti-Trump sentiments confer it with moral legitimacy.

Bacon Bits: Bristol, Big Ships, and Blue on Blue

Petersburg, Meet Bristol. The City of Bristol has been identified as “City A” in the recent report by the state Auditor of Public Accounts that scored even lower than Petersburg in a rating of fiscal stress, reports the Bristol Herald-Courier. Bristol hasn’t experienced the dramatic budget deficits of its fiscally challenged counterpart on the Appomattox River, but the city of 17,000 on the Tennessee state line is burdened by general-obligation bond debt of more than $100 million stemming from its backing of the failed The Falls commercial center.

Here Come the Big Ships. The CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt, the largest ship to ever call on an East Coast U.S. port, docked Monday in Norfolk, reports the Richmond Times-DispatchThe vessel, which carries the equivalent of 14,400 containers, made its way to Virginia via the widened Panama Canal, Served by the deepest channels on the East Coast, Norfolk is the logical first stop for a generation of massive new ships; after unloading cargo there, ships rise in the water enough to navigate shallower channels in other ports. As part of a $670 million expansion plan, the Virginia Port Authority is ordering four massive cranes capable of reaching across a vessel that is 26 containers wide.

Blue on Blue. In the aftermath of the fatal white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, city government has descended into vituperative in-fighting almost as anarchic as the protests and counter-protests themselves. The proximate cause is a controversy over who to blame for the police department’s failure (or unwillingness) to intervene to shut down the demonstrations before violence broke out. Did someone order the police to “stand down”? Mayor Mike Signer, City Manager Maurice Jones, and Police Chief Al Thomas are all in major ass-covering mode. Angry citizens shut down a Council meeting. Documents are leaking. Fingers are pointing. Read the latest installment in the Daily Progress here.

It Takes Two to Tango

The discourse over Saturday’s events in Charlottesville has evolved so rapidly that it is hard to keep up. If there’s one thing that most of us can agree upon, it’s that the mayhem and murder may have taken place in Virginia, but it does not define Virginia. Heather Heyer, victim of the car attack, was a Virginian. But the advocates and violence and the man who (allegedly) struck her down, came from Ohio. We Virginians may disagree about the merits of placing statues of Civil War generals in public spaces, but we are not Klansmen, Nazis, white supremacists or murderers.

To the contrary, as my friend Jon Wight observed on his Economics and Ethics blog, while out-of-state protesters and counter-protesters were bashing heads in Charlottesville, “thousands of people of all races gathered 70 miles away to celebrate ideas that unite us—the sounds of blues, jazz, and everything in-between at the Richmond Jazz Festival. The races of humanity mingled, laughed, shared food and fans, danced, and enjoyed each other’s company.”

It has been remarkable to see how the incident in Charlottesville has been hijacked by the national media to serve national political agendas and to observe how the battle has begun to frame the meaning of the violence. The national media seems particularly fixated on President Trump’s reluctance to denounce white supremacist groups by name in his formal remarks condemning “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” But even before Trump made his scripted and oddly detached comments, media pundits had been depicting the violence as exclusively the handiwork of the radical right — even as videos flashed on our TV screens showing confrontation between the far Right and the far Left.

Insofar as the most devastating crime that occurred yesterday can be attributed James Alex Fields, Jr., a white supremacist from Ohio, and insofar as participants in the rally came armed with shields and batons in expectation of conflict, the white nationalist movement deserves the lion’s share of odium for recent events. But that expectation of violence did not occur in a vacuum. It takes two to tango, folks. And it takes two to whack each other with sticks and clubs. The white nationalists we saw on those videos were not wailing away at phantoms.

I bring this up not because it is the most significant part of the story but because it is the most neglected part of the story and the most likely to be white-washed by the national media.

Here’s the truth: Both the far Right and far Left came to Charlottesville spoiling for a fight. Virginia authorities had plenty of advance notice. As Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a press release issued the day before the rally took place:

In advance of tomorrow’s rally there have been communications from extremist groups, many of which are located outside of Virginia, who may seek to commit acts of violence against rally participants or law enforcement officials. In the event that such violent or unlawful conduct occurs, I have instructed state public safety officials to act quickly and decisively in order to keep the public and themselves safe.

One can argue how effectively the Charlottesville police and State Police handled the events. Right-wing rally participants have already begun blaming them for letting the violence running out of control. But plenty of evidence suggests that both sides came ready to rumble. As Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Ned Oliver reported:

Attendees ranged from clean-cut young men in pressed white shirts to heavily armed militia members in body armor and camouflage. Others were outfitted more crudely, but nonetheless ready for battle, carrying homemade shields, sticks, and wearing all manner of helmets and face masks. Many attendees embraced Nazi imagery and chanted racist slogans. …

At least as many counter protesters, some also militarized and clearly prepared to fight, surrounded the square. By 10:30 a.m., extremely violent skirmishes broke out between the two groups.

Both groups repeatedly fired pepper spray and other chemical weapons at each other. At one point, the rally attendees launched at least four tear gas canisters on the counterprotesters, scattering them in search of medical attention. Sticks and batons also figured prominently in the clashes, which would flare up in a wild melee and then quickly die down as both sides retreated to regroup.

The reporting I’ve seen suggests that most (though not all) of the white nationalists came from outside Virginia. I have not seen a comparable level of journalistic curiosity about the identity of the counter-demonstrators, although perhaps someone will fill in those details. Based on my superficial impressions, the counter-demonstrators appear to have been a mixed bag. Most were Virginians — a friend of my son’s, who was hit by Field’s car, had come from Fairfax County — and their intention was to protest peacefully against racism. But I have questions about those who came to confront the white nationalists. Were they locals, or were they part of the so-called Antifa movement from outside Virginia looking for confrontation?

Some readers of Bacon’s Rebellion seem to think that violence emanates exclusively from the right side of the political spectrum. Yet the man who shot the Republican congressmen in Alexandria was a Bernie Bro. The murderers of police in Dallas and New York were agitated by Black Lives Matter rhetoric. Radicals have used violence to shut down conservative speakers on multiple campuses. The sad reality is that both the far Left and far Right are prone to violence. Further, the interests of both groups are served by confrontations like the one that occurred in Charlottesville. Both sides seek to polarize public opinion, and both benefit when violence and raw emotion encourage people to seek refuge in tribal (racial, ethnic, religious or class) identities.

It is the responsibility of those who don’t want the United States to descend into downward spiral of anarchy to push back. And that requires an honest appraisal of the dynamics driving the violence. Not surprisingly, I have seen no such honest appraisal in the mainstream media. (I do not purport to have conducted an exhaustive analysis, so my impressions must be regarded as anecdotal.)

Judging by the response to my previous post, I expect to be accused of drawing moral equivalence between the far Left and the far Right, so I want to make a few points crystal clear. Nazism is a loathsome ideology. KKK racism is abomination. The volatile mix of these strains of evil on display with the so-called white nationalists who demonstrated in Charlottesville yesterday is an affront t0 core American values and to the conservative/libertarian principles that I espouse.

But I’m not blind. What happened Saturday is part of a larger struggle between far Left and far Right. I expect the events in Charlottesville to further inflame both sides and to inspire even more violence. This time, the rightists committed the most heinous crime. Next time, it will be the leftists. People of moderation and good will serve no useful purpose by denying the reality that threatens to consume us all.

Update: Excellent piece by Robert Tracinski, a conservative, Charlottesville-based writer, who makes many of the same points I do. Hat tip: Reed Fawell.

Update: I took down a picture of Heather Heyer, victim of the terrorist-style attack by a white nationalist in Charlottesville, and replaced it with a photo depicting the melee between white nationalists and counter protesters. The photo in combination — “It Takes Two to Tango” — with the headline was potentially misleading. The photo of the physical altercation better illustrates the thrust of the post.

Sustaining the Biggest Public Nuisance in Richmond

Mosby Court, public housing project in Richmond

Republished from Cranky’s Blog.

Not satisfied at maintaining the largest public nuisance in Richmond – the one that just led to the shooting death of a State Policeman – the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RHHA) now proposes to do nothing realistic about it:

  • Fencing and gates. RRHA says this remedy is “largely . . . impractical.” I guess killing policemen is more “practical.”
  • Parking stickers and IDs. Not a bad idea, but worthless until they have the off-duty cops in place to catch the trespassers.
  • Empowerment programs. So, the problem largely is male visitors and they are going to “empower” the tenant girlfriends who are harboring those males? Please! The remedy is to evict those girlfriends.
  • Summer programs for the kids. Good thing to do but unrelated to the visiting male problem.

This is not rocket science, folks:

  • The feds tell us “(1) that effective property management can have a major impact on the health of a community, and (2) that accessible, legitimate techniques can be used to stop the spread of drug activity on rental property.”
  • Indeed, as to drugs (and certainly as to other crime), nuisance abatement is the sole tactic that has been shown scientifically to reduce crime in residential places. The DOJ monograph says: “With the evidence available we are relatively certain that holding private landlords accountable for drug dealing on their property by threatening abatement reduces drug related crimes.” Whether as to drug activity or other disorder, the landlord is the only entity that can make the physical changes to the property, evict the troublesome tenants, hire the security, control the access, and enforce the lease terms necessary to make the property safe.

Yet, RRHA, aside from the fences they have rejected, is not talking about what we know can help here:

  • Lights;
  • Cameras;
  • Access control;
  • Off-duty cops on patrol;
  • Rigorous trespass enforcement; and
  • Rigorous lease enforcement (i.e., eviction of the girlfriend who harbors the disorder)

As to that last point, the HUD lease [at Para. 25] contains the necessary provisions. These include eviction for, inter alia:

  • Drug related criminal activity engaged in  on or near the premises by any tenant, household member, or guest; and
  • Criminal activity by a tenant, any member of the tenant’s household, a guest or another person under the tenant’s control that threatens the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residents or by persons residing in the immediate vicinity.

Yet, when I spoke with them about this (in the distant past), they said

  • Legal Aid makes it difficult to do anything;
  • The judges are reluctant to enforce the lease;
  • It would be “onerous” to ask RRHA staff to follow up on all offense reports and calls for service; and
  • Given the quality of the people who live in subsidized housing, RRHA can’t be expected to do much better.

To judge from their response to the current murder rate, and the shooting of the policeman by a trespasser who was living at RRHA, their indifferent attitude and the soft bigotry of their low expectations have not improved.

It is clear that RRHA is not serious about controlling its property. City Council is quiescent. The Commonwealth’s Attorney is not prosecuting the RRHA Board for maintaining the nuisance. Your tax dollars at “work.”

Bringing Social Science Rigor to Jailhouse Programs

Sarah Scarbrough interacts with Richmond city jail inmates. Photo credit: Style Weekly.

Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody spent his early career as a policeman and detective putting people behind bars. As sheriff, he has made his mark by trying to keep people out of jail.

One of the smartest things Woody did was bring on Sarah Scarbrough as director of internal programs at the city jail to deliver programs that give inmates the life skills needed to cope on the outside. One of the smartest things that Scarbrough has done is to subject the jailhouse programs to rigorous social scientific analysis to determine what works to reduce recidivism and what doesn’t.

A recent study by a University of Richmond professor, Lisa Jobe-Shields, found that inmates who enroll in the city’s Recovering from Everyday Addictive Lifestyles program have shown a demonstrably lower rate of recidivism than those who don’t. But the study had an important caveat — the results apply only to those who participate for more than 90 days, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Nationally, recidivism runs between 60% and 70%. In Richmond, where Woody has long emphasized learning and self-improvement programs in the jail, the rate is lower. The Jobe-Shields study found that the rate for inmates who participated in the Addictive Lifestyles program for more than 90 days is lower still: Only 30% re-offended within a year of release, compared to 55% who didn’t. There was no difference in the rate for those who took party for fewer than 90 days.

As the Times-Dispatch describes the program, it “treats jail life like a full-time job where male and female inmates complete classes ranging from remedial math and creative writing to anger management, parenting and drug abuse treatment through a 40-hour week.”

The study provides feedback for improving the program. Noting that the city jail is a short-term facility, some inmates don’t stay long enough to complete the program. Scarbrough said she plans to add evening and weekend sessions to extend the program beyond a 40-hour week. She also would like to provide support to inmates who were released from graduating from the program.

Bacon’s bottom line: I’m not saying that Woody and Scarbrough have devised the nation’s best anti-recidivism program — there may well be programs in other parts of the country that do just as well, or even better. But they are going about the job the right way, and results should improve over time as they incorporate feedback and make continual improvements to the program.

The sociological reality is that many jail inmates come from shattered families and dysfunctional subcultures of poverty, and had no one to teach them basic skills required to function successfully in life. In the Woody-Scarbrough paradigm, jail does far more than keep criminals off the streets — it provides an opportunity for inmate to learn life skills that will enable them to function successfully in society as workers, parents, family members and members of the community.

It is a truism that jails and prisons can be incubators of crime — inmates learn how to be more successful criminals. Likewise, it is a truism that society should invest in giving inmates the skills they need to become productive members of society. Jails offer many programs run by noble-minded people with ideas of how to help. But which skills are most needed to function on the outside? What is the best way to inculcate those skills? Which programs work the best, and what traits make them successful? Virginia sheriffs can’t reliably make those judgments based on anecdotal evidence.

Finding reliable answers requires social scientific rigor. By nudging government programs toward what works, social-scientific insights can save thousands of inmates from lives of crime — and, as a worthwhile bonus, save taxpayers millions of dollars.

Falling Apart: Rockbridge County Edition

Robert E. Clark, 39, entered Alford pleas to nine counts of sexual abuse: not admitting guilt but acknowledging that there was sufficient evidence to convict him.

Here’s a story where America’s fraying social fabric intersects with near-criminal bureaucratic indifference. For context, read about the social breakdown of white America as described by sociologist Charles Murray in “Falling Apart.”

After seven months of investigation, a special grand jury has found dysfunction and incompetence “from top to bottom” at the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services, reports the Roanoke Times.

“Don’t write up reports,” a child-welfare supervisor, who went unnamed in the article, allegedly said. “It takes a lot of work for us to enter that into the system and get it taken care of.”

Despite evidence that the supervisor had shredded call reports to lighten the work load, the grand jury concluded there were no grounds for criminal prosecution. Still, the investigation found that problems extended beyond one bad supervisor, the Times says:

Board members, supervisors and staffers all contributed to a breakdown in the department’s Child Protective Services Unit, which “failed in its primary mission to our community, that of protecting the safety and well-being of our most vulnerable population: The children of the Rockbridge/Lexington/Buena Vista area,” the report stated.

The supervisor, who was fired during an internal social services review, invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself more than 60 times during the grand jury proceedings.

An earlier article in the Roanoke Times described one especially atrocious case of neglect and abuse uncovered in Rockbridge County.

In 2015, Rockbridge County Deputy R.T. McCullough pulled his patrol car into a mobile home park to check a report about two girls, ages 3 and 8. As he approached the home, he was struck by the stench of urine and the sight of cockroaches crawling over the front porch and screen door. Inside, he found thousands of the bugs covering over the walls and furniture — and a three-year-old girl who sat crying at the kitchen counter.

Under questioning the girls revealed that they had been sexually abused by one Robert E. Clark. (It’s not clear from the article what Clark’s relationship to the girls was.) The Times continues:

The 8-year-old confided to her foster mother and a counselor that over a four-month period in 2015, Clark repeatedly raped and molested her and her 3-year old sister, forced them to have sex with one another and beat them with a belt while they were naked.

Clark’s sister, Samantha K. Simmons, is charged with sexually abusing two young boys in a junked Ford van that sat nearby.

The desecration of children is not a new phenomenon in our society. And a scandal in one Virginia county hardly constitutes proof of a growing problem. Indeed, a 2012 New York Times article indicated that child sexual abuse had plummeted 60% between 1992 and and 2010. The reasons for the decline were not clear, although the article pointed to a number of possible factors, such as greater public awareness, stepped-up prevention efforts, better training and education, specialized policing, and the presence in many cities of child advocacy centers.

While it’s possible that such practices have driven down the incidence of child abuse, I fear that the ongoing social disintegration of the poor and working class — chronic under-employment and under-employment, out-of-wedlock births, non-paternal boyfriends moving in with mothers and their children, substance abuse, and related behaviors — are creating the conditions for endemic child abuse. I expect that more recent statistics than those quoted in the NY Times would show that the incidence of child abuse is getting worse, not better.

That assumes, of course, that the statistics are trustworthy. If Rockbridge County social welfare workers were shredding call reports, who knows if their counterparts were doing the same thing elsewhere. Frankly, it’s hard to know what to believe.

The Left’s War on the Poor: Sanctuary City Edition

Declaring Richmond a sanctuary city would protect criminal elements of the illegal alien population from deportation

Declaring Richmond a sanctuary city would protect criminal elements of the illegal alien population from deportation. Data source: Richmond Times-Dispatch

In February a debate erupted over the City of Richmond’s approach to dealing with illegal immigrants. Mayor Levar Stoney issued a directive reiterating a city policy prohibiting police from asking people about their immigration status in the normal course of business.

But that wasn’t good enough for protesters who called for the city to declare itself a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community, Muslims and African Americans. Under state law, Richmond authorities are supposed to send the immigration status of jail inmates to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Protesters demanded that the city deny ICE officials access to the jail unless they have a warrant from a judge.

It’s not clear how LGBTQs, Muslims and African Americans would benefit from sanctuary-city status, but let’s not let this ritualistic invocation of other victim groups detain us here. And let us not get dragged into a discussion of President Trump’s polarizing rhetoric regarding illegal immigrants or the wisdom (or lack of it) of building a big, beautiful wall. Let us turn our attention to the very people the protesters profess to be concerned about — immigrants.

In an excellent piece published over the weekend, Mark Bowes with the Richmond Times-Dispatch provided detailed data on the number of illegals held in Virginia jails. Since 2008, local and regional facilities with the ten largest illegal-immigrant populations have held nearly 13,800 illegal immigrants, of whom 4,700 were set for deportation. These numbers do not include inmates whose immigration status could not be determined,

Bowes interviewed Juan Vega, a naturalized citizen who was born in Nicaragua and came to the United States with his family as a young boy. As a Spanish-speaking Chesterfield County prosecutor, Vega interacts daily with the county’s growing Hispanic community that included more than 27,000 legal and illegal residents in 2005.

“Many politicians and other people in the community throughout the nation are really going out on a limb for these violent individuals, to keep them here, and I thought, this is kind of disturbing where I am coming from, with what I see here in the courtroom every week,” the prosecutor said.

He feels a responsibility to speak out, Vega said, because a non-Latino would be labeled a racist.

Academics can argue back and forth over whether illegal immigrants are more or less violent than native-born Americans — there is evidence cutting both ways — but there is no denying that some illegal immigrants are violent. And when Hispanic illegals come to Virginia, they live amidst other Hispanics. Said Vega: “They go to those Latino communities where there are a lot of legal Latinos, who they prey upon.”

In the article, Bowes highlighted several high-profile Chesterfield County crimes involving illegal immigrants. Broadly speaking, these crimes fall into two categories. One consists of drunk driving, in which victims appear to be random members of the community. The other consists of robbing, stabbing, raping, shooting and general criminal mayhem, in which the victims are usually known to the perpetrators — in other words, the victims are usually other Latinos.

For example, in 2011 Melecio Hernandez, an illegal Mexican immigrant, was convicted of crawling through the window of a female neighbor and sexually assaulting her. In 2012 Felix Carillo-Fuentes, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, cut his pregnant fiancee and stabbed 16 times a man he believed to be a romantic rival. In 2015, a mob led by an illegal immigrant from Mexico attacked Salvador Garcia-Cruz, a legal immigrant, outside a nightclub, punching him, kicking him and stabbing him above the eye.

“Every single victim of mine — whether they’re here illegally, or are citizens or have work permits — has said it’s a good idea to deport other violent illegal immigrants,” Vega said. “They’re scared there’s going to be some kind of retribution (after the felons) serve their time and leave prison.”

Bacon’s bottom line: It is a core belief of the Left that America is a hopelessly racist, misogynist, homophobic society. The Left is always on the lookout for victims who fit that narrative. Thus, we see black high school students who disrupt the educational experience of their classmates elevated to victim status on the grounds that they are suspended at disproportionate rates compared to other races. Similarly, we see illegal-immigrant criminals elevated to victim status on the grounds that… frankly, I’m not sure what grounds… Because racism. Because Trump. It makes no sense to me.

Whatever the logic or illogic in spinning these narratives, lefties ignore the invisible victims, be they black students who find themselves in classrooms where no one can learn or legal Latino immigrants who are preyed upon by the criminals in their midst.

Thus the real racists — racist in the leftist sense of propounding policies that have disproportionate impact on minority groups — are the leftists themselves. In the case of Richmond as sanctuary city, those who would keep illegal-immigrant criminals here in Virginia are allowing them to continue abusing law-abiding Latinos (whether here legally or illegally). If the goal is to help the poor and downtrodden, Richmond should not only reject sanctuary city status, it should do precisely the opposite — declare its intention to cooperate fully with the ICE and deport the bad actors.

Cats Laying Down with Dogs

When former attorney general Ken Cuccinelli agrees with Governor Terry McAuliffe’s proposed criminal justice reforms, it’s a sign that conservatives and liberals actually might be able to overcome their differences and get something useful done.

In a Washington Post op-ed last week, Cuccinelli made the case for raising the felony theft threshold from $200, tied for lowest in the nation, and to stop suspending a driver’s license for not paying court fines and fees.

If someone steals an item worth more than $200, the crime becomes a grand larceny and a felony rather than a misdemeanor. The purchasing power of $200 when Virginia’s threshold was set in 1980 is greater than $500 when adjusted for inflation. The Virginia justice system should focus its resources on more serious offenders, Cuccinelli says, not toss nonviolent youths into juvenile correction facilities at an average cost of $150,000 per head.

Likewise, suspending drivers licenses for unpaid court fines and fees makes it difficult for hundreds of thousands of Virginians to maintain gainful unemployment and repay those very same court fines and fees. “This has become government’s version of squeezing blood from a turnip, and it is a fight in which conservatives in Virginia can work to limit government abuse,” writes Cuccinelli.

Reforms have been proposed in the past, but they have been blocked by conservative Republicans in the legislature. I’m not sure what their objections are. Perhaps don’t want to be perceived as “soft on crime.” Perhaps Cuccinelli, a firebrand conservative, will give them the ideological cover they need to change positions.

It’s fine to crack down on violent and hard-core criminals — throw the book at them, as far as I’m concerned. But we should make it easier for petty criminals and those unable to pay their court costs to recover from their mistakes and become productive, tax-paying citizens. Raising the felony theft threshold and restoring licenses to drivers who lost them for non-driving offenses are two very good places to start.