This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: A piece from Politico centers on rising gun violence and the local politics of crime. In US cities from Atlanta to Seattle, homicides and shootings are up, while the number of cops, following last summer’s racial justice protests, is down. Crime, as a result, is dominating the discourse in mayoral races, driving candidates even in Democratic-leaning cities to get tougher on crime. NPR reports from Minnesota, where an increase in violent crime is complicating a push to defund the Minneapolis police. And a piece from The Nation also highlights the politics of rising crime. According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, a majority of Americans – Democrats and Republicans alike – view crime as a serious problem. Historically, rising crime has often spelled electoral trouble for Democrats, whose responses tend to fall into one of two categories: either “posturing as tough, but not quite as tough on crime as Republicans”; or denying crime as a salient issue in the first place. Instead, the piece argues, Democrats must stake out a “bold, empathetic vision for criminal justice, taking control of the crime narrative before that narrative takes control of them”
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: USA Today reports from Detroit, where, amid a dramatic rise in violent crime, the on-the-ground realities of policing and the debate over reform are much more complex than headlines might suggest. A story from Vice centers on ShotSpotter, the faulty gunshot-detecting technology “summoning armed police to Black neighborhoods.” And a piece from City & State NY highlights “the promise and peril of Cure Violence NYC.” The nonprofit Cure Violence operates a network of community-based violence prevention programs aimed at “changing community norms about violence” and providing pathways out of criminal behavior for at-risk youth. Amid an “alarming rise” in shootings in the city, and in the wake of last summer’s protests, many elected officials are looking for strategies to reduce violence that do not rely on law enforcement. Many have pointed to initiatives like Cure Violence as a “ready-made solution”; but it remains to be seen whether New York’s Cure Violence programs can handle the weight of expectation currently being placed on them to reduce violence in the city.
In complex crime storytelling: A piece from Vox recounts “the ballad of the Chowchilla bus kidnapping.” In July 1976, a school bus carrying 26 children and their driver disappeared from a small northern California town, capturing the world’s attention. 45 years later, Vox revisits the wild true story of a “generation-defining crime that briefly shook the world.” And a piece from the Washington Post Magazine, by Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman, dives deep into the story of Johnniqua Charles, more commonly known as the “Lose Yo Job” lady. Last year, Charles’ voice accidentally provided the soundtrack for a viral video celebrating then-presidential candidate Joe Biden. Charles’ own story – one that spans years of addiction, struggles with mental health, repeated run-ins with law enforcement and tangles with the criminal legal system – never made the news. But Charles’ story, Kerman argues, holds valuable lessons for Biden and other Democratic politicians who seized on the viral video – if only they’re willing to learn.
In culture/true crime: A piece from TVO recounts the story behind Tightwire, a magazine of original art, poetry, essays, and reported work entirely written and produced from inside a women’s prison. A piece from NBC News centers on Ramon Reid, AKA YouTube’s “Modern Day Caveman.” Recently released from prison after more than 30 years, Ramon, now 51, is experiencing many small moments in life for the first time – and sharing them, along with all the triumphs and struggles of reentry, with his thousands of subscribers. And a piece from the Whole Story explores “the power of asking, ‘Is there a better way?’”. The CAHOOTS program in Eugene, Oregon, a mobile crisis team designed to de-escalate police encounters, has been around for decades. But only in the past few years – and largely thanks to one reporter’s “solutions-focused question” – has it gained national attention as a model for reform.