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EDITORIAL: ‘Stealing’ and ‘leaving destruction in their wake’

“Defund the police” may go down as the most misguided and foolish political slogan in American political history. After the events of the last week, is it finally dead and buried?

Last Tuesday, Target announced that it will close nine stores across four states in response to rising retail theft. Locations in Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Oregon, and New York City will be among the stores shuttered.

“We are hearing from members large and small,” Tom Wickham of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told CNN, “about the problems they continue to face from crime and, in some areas, a lack of prosecution of criminals.”

As if on cue, criminal mobs last Tuesday roamed through parts of Philadelphia — with its leftist district attorney — looting stores and shops. The destruction continued into Wednesday.

The Philadelphia Inquirer described the scene: “Before the night was over, police said, groups had broken into businesses across Philadelphia, stealing, ransacking and leaving destruction in their wake. Dozens of people — including what police described as a caravan of ‘criminal opportunists’ — broke into stores along popular shopping corridors.”

Nearly 2,900 miles away across the country, scores of Oakland, California, business owners closed their doors last week for a few hours to protest rising crime and the failure of city officials to do anything about it.

“Oakland has been known as a city that is OK with violence and crime, we’re not,” one restaurant owner told a local TV station. “Look at all of these people here, we’re not OK with this. We want to be safe. We want to be functional, and we want a city that we can come back into town square.”

Criminal justice reform is a noble cause, if done properly. Providing those who have paid their debt to society with the ability to become productive members of society should be a goal of any such effort. Ensuring accountability for police misconduct is also vital to instilling public confidence in the system.

But promoting the notion that there should be no consequences for “minor” criminal behavior and that starving law enforcement budgets are consistent with providing for public safety is facile and dangerous, particularly for those living in low-income communities.

Ronald Reagan famously said, “If you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it.” The misguided progressive “defund the police” movement was a defacto subsidy that made it cheaper to engage in criminal behavior.

The results are clear. Just ask business owners in Oakland and Philadelphia and consumers who will no longer have a local Target store to patronize.

This commentary was originally published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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