A large and fast-growing number of Americans say they don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods, and that the justice system is not doing enough to lock up criminals, a shock poll shows.
In just three years, the number of adults who say the criminal justice system is too soft on villains has shot up by 17 percentage points, from 41 percent in 2020 to 58 percent in this week’s Gallup survey.
At the same time, nearly two thirds of respondents said the country’s crime problem was ‘extremely’ or ‘very serious,’ and more than three quarters said the lawbreaking scourge is getting worse.
The nationwide survey found that ever-more people want to see more cops on the streets, rather than sitting in anti-bias training workshops about policing in minority areas.
‘Americans have consistently lacked confidence in the US criminal justice system, and once again, a majority views it as not tough enough,’ Gallup said in a report accompanying its results.
‘Most US adults think the criminal justice system should focus on strengthening law enforcement rather than reducing bias against minorities, but they believe targeting social and economic problems is key to lowering the crime rate.’
The survey results may not mirror reality — crime rates vary enormously by region and type, and while rates rose at the start of the pandemic, they appear to be falling again, and are in any case low historically.
But the survey doubtless spotlights widespread concern, and it comes as police units from Michigan to Maryland warn the public of a worsening problem.
Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser this week declared a public emergency over worrying numbers of robberies, carjackings, and even homicides by child offenders.
Her counterpart in Baltimore, Brandon Scott, resisted calls to do the same.
In Michigan this week, Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young, warned of an ‘increase in violence’ and worrying rates of aggravated assaults, retail and vehicular crimes.
Politicians are taking notice.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has called for more police funding, while the Republican front-runner in the 2024 White House race Donald Trump has pushed for tougher justice, including death sentences for drug dealers.
Gallup’s nationwide survey of more than 1,000 adults found that Americans by wide margins say the justice system is not tough enough, and the numbers who say the system work has dropped in recent years.
Republican voters are more worried that the system’s too soft than are Democrats.
There’s also been a shift in attitudes on policing, with growing numbers of voters saying it’s more important to have cops on the streets than having them sit in anti-bias training workshops.
Between 2016 and this year, the share of respondents calling for more law and order rose from 49 percent to 55 percent.
At the same time, the share who called for less bias against minorities fell from 43 percent to 42 percent.
That covers an era in which America has been roiled by the police killings of George Floyd and other unarmed black men, the Black Lives Matter and ‘defund the police’ movements and widespread calls for reforms.
Rising concerns over the shortcomings of the justice system appear to be linked to heightened perceptions of crime.
Americans have steadily grown more worried about crime nationwide and in their own neighborhoods since about 2018.
Since about the same time, ever more people worry that the crime problem has grown worse.
Changes in how the FBI gathers data make it hard to quantify crime rates, but Gallup’s surveys show the number of people say they were victims of crimes has ticked up since about 2020.
‘Perhaps reacting to the sharp rise in the murder rate nationally as well as news stories about car theft and shoplifting, most Americans believe crime is increasing, both in their local area and in the US,’ Gallup said.
Still, the pollsters added, only 3 percent of Americans say crime is the country’s most serious issue. More people are worried about inflation (14 percent), the economy (14 percent), and immigration (13 percent).