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Tolerating Rising Crime: Is Cooperate & Comply the New Norm?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Mark Kling & Linda-Marie Sundstrom
November 16, 2021

According to the FBI, violent crime in 2021 appears to be on track to be the worst in American history. Additionally, there are an estimated 550,000 shoplifting incidents in the United States every day, costing stores $50 billion annually. In San Francisco, car break-ins have increased by 753% in the past year. The Los Angeles Police Department has warned community members of increased numbers of follow-home robberies, and if victimized, people should simply cooperate and comply with robbers.

In a recent Tweet from the San Francisco Chronicle, they put forth a question about rising crime in their area—should residents learn to tolerate burglaries as part of city living? This raises an important question. As crime continues to escalate, how should communities across the United States react? Communities can:

  • Choose to enforce and prosecute laws.
  • Protect themselves and their families.
  • Learn to accept and tolerate rising crime.

Enforce & Prosecute Laws

Decriminalization: In recent years, laws have changed in order to strive for a more humane, fair and equitable application of criminal justice. For example, major cities have decriminalized a variety of felonies and downgraded them to misdemeanors, such as drug possession—removing the consequences for criminal behavior. The intent was to avoid criminal records which could prevent people from living prosperous lives. However, examining recent crime in San Francisco after the decriminalization of drug possession, an estimated 85% of the city’s 18,000 homeless population in a 50-block radius are addicted to drugs and turning to crime to feed their addiction. This trend has resulted in a rapid increase of theft, assaults and destruction. Communities need to determine if this trend towards decriminalization, which is resulting in loss of safety, is sustainable in a civil society

Directives Preventing Prosecution: In cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Francisco and others, directives have been unilaterally established by the elected District Attorney (DA) prohibiting the prosecution of laws with which the DA personally disagrees. These DAs prohibit charging crimes such as public intoxication, prostitution, assault against a police officer, driving without a license, trespassing and many more. These unilateral directives, issued by a single person, also prevent prosecutors from presenting evidence at parole hearings, which often leads to releasing convicted criminals from prison. Cities in which DAs are using these types of de facto legalization-of-crimes tactics are facing escalating crime, homelessness, addiction and lawlessness. 

Protect Themselves

The Defund the Police Movement has forced many communities to reduce the number of available officers. Cities such as Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, to name a few, have limited enforcement, coupled with decriminalizing felonies, and failure to prosecute laws, which is resulting in escalating crime. As a result, individual community members are at a crossroads of finding ways to protect themselves.

In communities calling for “defunding police” there appears to be a dichotomy of who receives police protection. In Baltimore, elected officials cut $22 million from the police budget, that limited protection for citizens, but spent $3.6 million for 14 police officers to protect the Mayor, State Attorney and Police Commissioner. Highly trained law enforcement officers are leaving police departments due to, what they perceive as, demoralizing working conditions, and are moving into private security protection for those who can afford it. In high-risk cities, where burglary, assaults and murders are skyrocketing, citizens are turning to these private security companies for protection. In other parts of the United States, private gun sales are on track to be the highest in 2021, with women requesting concealed carry permits at an increase of 108%. With the decrease in professional policing, are we heading toward self-protection, or are we seeing the emergence of a two-tiered safety system consisting of elites who can afford private security and those who cannot?

Learn to Accept & Tolerate Rising Crime

Not too many years ago, a shopper may have been shocked to see someone in a store hide an item in a bag, then walk out without paying for it. But now in some cities, brazen retail thefts can be seen on any Saturday afternoon, in broad daylight, without fear of prosecution. Reports of rapes on subways, where passengers do nothing during brutal attacks, is threatening everyday American safety. Are Americans rapidly becoming desensitized and losing outrage over criminal activities? Are we learning to accept and tolerate rising crime as part of the new normal?

Do We Tolerate Rising Crime or Reverse Course?

With the rising crime in our country, communities have a choice to make. Do we continue down the path of less enforcement and prosecutions, which will continue to result in higher crime—or do we re-invest in police and hold prosecutors accountable to uphold the laws? If crime continues to escalate, and enforcement and prosecutions do not increase, do citizens need to take personal safety into their own hands to protect themselves and their families? Or, is the only option to accept and tolerate being victimized and simply cooperate and comply with the robbers and other law violators?


Dr. Mark Kling has been in law enforcement for 34 years, 13 as police chief. He has taught both Public Administration and Criminal Justice courses for the past 20 years. He is currently the Criminal Justice Program Director for California Baptist University and came out of retirement to transition the Rialto Police Department to new innovative executive leadership. Email: [email protected] / [email protected]

Dr. Linda-Marie Sundstrom is a former Fulbright Scholar who taught Public Administration in Ukraine at a university under the Office of the Ukrainian President. She worked for 20 years in local government and has taught in Master of Public Administration Programs for nearly two decades. She is currently the MPA Program Director for California Baptist University in Southern California. Email: [email protected]

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