Category Archives: Crime , corrections and law enforcement

Recidivism: The Rest of the Story, Part 3–Who Comes Back to Prison?

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Prior posts (here and here) discussed the increase in the Commonwealth’s recidivism rate and the possible explanations for that increase. This post, the last in the series, will examine the characteristics of recidivists, or which offenders are most likely to commit new crimes upon their release from prison.

Despite what is depicted in movies and on television, and claimed by some on this blog, offenders who have previously committed violent crimes are not likely to go on violent rampages once they get out of prison. The recidivism rate for violent offenders is lower than that of nonviolent offenders.

Predictors of Recidivism. DOC analyses of its data have shown “a consistent link between certain factors and recidivism.”  The most common predictors are:

  1. Gender—males are more likely than females to recidivate (24.8% vs. 18.0%.)
  2. Age — younger inmates are more likely to recidivate.
  3. Previous state-responsible (SR) incarceration — inmates with a greater number of previous SR incarcerations are more likely to recidivate.
  4. Crime type of most serious offense—as noted above, inmates who have committed nonviolent crimes are more likely to recidivate.

Continue reading

Three More Proposals to Reduce Gun Violence in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

There was extensive commentary on my post yesterday that recommended expanded use of stop and frisk in an attempt to reduce gun violence. Given the demonstrated interest in the subject, I offer three suggestions that go further.

Increase federal prosecutions. Federal laws, penalties, detention hearings and prosecutions are a far more formidable deterrent to street use of guns than their state and local counterparts.

Virginia should increase its referrals of firearms violations to federal authorities in the same manner and using the same joint task forces as it does with drug violations.

Criminals do not have to be rocket scientists to understand the differences in consequences between prosecutions under state or local laws vs. federal firearms laws. Their lawyers will explain it to them.

Let Virginia Attorneys General prosecute gun crimes directly without local concurrence. The far left is conflicted between their hatred of guns and their desire to reduce prison populations. When they speak of gun control, they generally do not mean no bail and heavy sentences for gun crimes.

I will go out on a limb and suggest that perhaps a woke Commonwealth’s Attorney plea bargaining a felony gun crime down to a misdemeanor is not the way to reduce gun violence. Continue reading

Understaffed Police Departments, Skyrocketing Gun Violence and “Stop and Frisk”

by James C. Sherlock

The print edition of The Virginian-Pilot today ran the story we commented on yesterday on the surge in gun violence killing children in Norfolk. The headline in the online version:

Nearly a dozen children were shot in July in Norfolk. Communities are hurting, and activists want change.

None of the nearly 2,200 words of the article mentioned stop and frisk. The referenced “activists” oppose stop and frisk as unavoidably linked to racial profiling. Courts disagree.

But I suspect that The Virginian-Pilot considers it off limits to even bring up.

It is one of the most fundamental policing techniques for reducing gun violence. In 2011, the NYPD arrested 82,286 persons as a result of stop and frisk encounters. Mike Bloomberg was mayor. The use of stop and frisk has plummeted since then under Mayor DeBlasio.

Those concerned with urban violence have a right to be concerned.  The past few years of political turmoil over policing has resulted in increasing shortages of officers and reductions in street policing. The direct results: more guns on the street, more killings of the innocent. Continue reading

Wake Up, People! This Is Me Telling You That the Old Answers Are Not Working!

Photo credit: WTKR televison

by James A. Bacon

How many children have to be killed, wounded and traumatized before people wake up?

Headline from today’s Virginian-Pilot: “Nearly a dozen children have been shot this month in Norfolk. Communities are hurting…”

And then it adds this kicker: “and activists want change.”

The Virginian-Pilot spoke with elected officials, community organizers, the city’s police chief, and nearly two dozen families impacted by the violence. There are lots of ideas out there — more funding for recreation centers, expanded peer mentorship, getting guns off the street. The usual suspects… all of which have been tried and all found lacking.

The story does extract the beginnings of insight from one person. Councilman Paul Riddick cuts to the quick: “We have no one but ourselves to blame,” he says, referring to city leaders “We have lost control of our youngsters.”

But then he says the city needs to redistribute money from wealthy areas to poor areas to build more libraries and recreation centers. Libraries? Are you kidding me? The City of Norfolk needs to build more libraries to reduce the number of random shootings? Continue reading

Recidivism: The Rest of the Story, Part 2–Explanations for Increase

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

A previous post discussed how Virginia’s most recent recidivism rate was an increase over the prior year’s rate. The Department of Corrections (DOC) offers two major possible explanations for the increases in recidivism: more technical violators and more “jail-only” offenders.

Technical violators. A recidivist who is a technical violator is someone who has been returned to prison, not due to having committed a new crime, but because he has violated one or more conditions of his probation and the judge has chosen to revoke his probation and reimpose part or all of what remains of his suspended sentence.

The percentage of technical violators making up the recidivist cohort had decreased in recent years to below 10% in FY 2013. However, in FY 2014, the percentage more than doubled to 22.3% and has remained at that level.  After a slight dip in FY 2015, it increased by more than two percentage points in FY 2016. Continue reading

Recidivism: The Rest of the Story, Part 1 — How Large Is It?

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Recently, Governor Northam issued a press release applauding the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) most recent recidivism rate of 23.9% and noting it was one of the lowest in the country. All that is true and is highly commendable, but, as Paul Harvey used to say, “Now, for the rest of the story.”

Source: Virginia Dept. of Corrections

While a recidivism rate of 23.9% is excellent, it is actually an increase over the most previous rate of 23.1%. Although DOC likes to say that the most recent rate is “only” 0.8 of a percentage point more than the previous year, over the last four years, as shown by the accompanying graph, the recidivism rate rose from 22.4% to 23.9%, an increase of 1.5 percentage points.

Furthermore, although Virginia’s rate was among the lowest recidivism rates in the country (second lowest), for each of the four years prior to the last, the state had the lowest rate. In summary, although Virginia has an excellent recidivism rate, the rate has been increasing and Virginia has slipped a notch in relation to other states. Continue reading

Is DOJ’s Focus on Healthcare Monopolies Coming to Virginia?

by James C. Sherlock

The Acting head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, Richard A. Powers, yesterday delivered a speech that described the Justice Department’s new goals, strategies and resources for criminal antitrust enforcement.

The clouds have darkened over Virginia’s healthcare monopolies.

The Commonwealth. Virginia has failed in its duty to oversee its healthcare industry.  The full extent of that failure has been detailed in previous columns.

It has failed in two major ways:

  1. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has been captured by the healthcare provider industry that it regulates. Indeed VDH has been actively complicit in industry evasion of antitrust statutes through its administration of Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law.
  2. The Commonwealth’s regulatory structure has a strategic vulnerability. Neither the VDH that regulates providers nor the State Corporation Commission that regulates insurers can adequately oversee integrated health care delivery and insurance companies to prevent or detect what amount to internal conspiracies in restraint of trade. In the wrong hands, integrated provider monopolies and regionally powerful insurers can serve as weapons against competitors to both.

Continue reading

The Left Acknowledges Virginia’s Violent Crime Spike

Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone. Photo credit: The Virginia Mercury

by James A. Bacon

It’s good to see that our colleagues at The Virginia Mercury understand that Virginia does have a crime problem. As an article by Graham Moomaw acknowledges in the lead paragraph, Virginia’s homicide rate hit a 20-year high in 2020, and violent crimes are trending even higher in some cities this year. Indeed, the problem is so impossible to sweep under the rug that Democratic activists and politicians are debating what to do about it.

Not surprisingly, however, our friends on the left aren’t blaming the criminals, much less the enactment of sweeping new laws designed to reduce “mass incarceration.” For the most part, they are defining the issue as too many guns.

The new thinking on the left — gun-control groups, community activists, and health providers joined in a Community Violence Coalition — is to devote millions in COVID-relief dollars on community-based “violence intervention programs.” Continue reading

No, Chief, “We” Didn’t Fail Accused Teenaged Killer

by Kerry Dougherty

In the early hours of Sunday morning, 47-year-old Glenn B. Kreps was shot to death on A View Street, in Norfolk’s Ocean View.

Details about the dead man are scarce.

One thing we do know: A 14-year-old has been arrested and charged with his murder.

I don’t know about you, but my thoughts are with the dead man. Who was he? Why was he killed? Did he leave behind a family? You know, the sort of questions ordinary, law-abiding people ask when they hear of a violent crime.

You’d expect the chief of police to express similar concerns about the shooting victim.

Ah, but this is in Norfolk, where the top cop is apparently more concerned with perps than victims, like so many lefties. Continue reading

Descano Promises More Sunlight for Criminal Justice Data

Democracy thrives in sunlight

by James A. Bacon

Steve Descano, Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney, plans to begin publishing data on prosecutions as part of his campaign to root out alleged racial and socioeconomic disparities in the county’s criminal justice system, reports The Washington Post.

Data to be published online will cover such metrics as race, charging, sentences, bail decisions, and plea offers.

“You can’t fix what you don’t measure,” Descano said. “I’ve heard from a lot of members of our community they don’t know what goes on inside this building and they don’t feel comfortable that they are going to get a fair shake.”

This is a positive development. Open publication of the data is far preferable to the attorney general’s office compiling the data internally and selectively citing statistics that support a predetermined narrative. Anyone who values open, honest government should approve. In fact, Fairfax County might be setting a precedent that other Virginia localities should emulate. Continue reading

Time to Take the Fentanyl Scourge Seriously

Funeral service for Jayla McBroom, victim of a fentanyl overdose. Photo credit: Washington Post

by James A. Bacon

Drug dealers are lacing opioids, marijuana and cocaine with  fentanyl in the Washington area, reports The Washington Post. The city medical examiner identified the super-addictive and often deadly drug in 95% of the 85 overdose deaths through March this year. Law enforcement authorities are seeing similar increases in fentanyl overdoses in Arlington and Alexandria as well.

Writes the Post:

Emily Bentley, Alexandria’s opioid response coordinator, attributes the recent spike to dealers lacing substances with the cheaper, more addictive fentanyl. She noted that unsuspecting marijuana users may be taking drugs laced with the synthetic opioid, broadening the types of drug users who could be impacted.

Society has not yet come to grips with the fentanyl scourge. If we thought crack cocaine was bad in the 1980s, fentanyl is worse. Fentanyl is cheap, like crack, but it is even more addictive — reportedly 50 times more potent than heroin. Dealers have discovered they can create a market for their product by mixing it with other drugs. Thousands of Americans are dying. Continue reading

Virginia Governance in the Finest of Hands: Robert Jeffrey

Roanoke City Councilman Robert Jeffrey. Photo credit: Roanoke Times

Roanoke City Councilman Robert Jeffrey, 52, has been indicted by a grand jury on two charges of felony embezzlement. The case arose from a complaint from the Northwest Neighborhood Environmental Organization, an affordable housing organizations, reports The Roanoke Times. The charges did not specify the amount of money or value of property involved, but noted that the sum is “substantially above” the $1,000 threshold for felony charges. Jeffrey called the charges meritless, and the Roanoke Circuit Court did not judge him a flight risk. He took office in Roanoke City Council Jan. 1.


Even Western Virginia Has Police Shortages

A criminal justice academy in Salem

by James A. Bacon

Police departments in Virginia’s major urban centers are not the only law enforcement agencies where police officers are quitting in large numbers. Roanoke County in western Virginia saw 28 officers leave during 2020, about one fifth of the department, The Roanoke Times has reported. That was twice the number the department would experience in a normal year. The City of Roanoke has 38 vacancies, about 15% of its force.

Neighboring Montgomery County has lost 26 deputies, about 23% of its manpower over the past 12 months. That compares to only four officers departing in 2019, and two in 2018.

The Town of Christiansburg (in Montgomery County) has similar issues. “In years past we would typically receive between 50 and 100 applications when we advertised an opening,” Assistant Chief Chris Ramsey wrote in an email. “Now we are lucky to get ten or fifteen applicants for multiple openings. Only a fraction of those will meet the minimum qualifications and actually appear for applicant testing.” Continue reading

Don’t Blame Pandemic for Rise in U.S. Violent Crime

by Hans Bader

Recent spikes in violent crime aren’t due to COVID-19 or the economy, as suggested recently in a Virginian-Pilot article exploring causes of a spike in violence in Hampton Roads.

Murders frequently fall during recessions and times of economic hardship. In the U.S. homicides fell during the 2007-2009 recession. In many other countries, murder rates actually went down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, the murder rate fell in London by 16% in 2020, even though England suffered more from the pandemic than America did. England suffered far more economic harm than America did, with England’s economy shrinking 9.9% during 2020, compared to 3.5% in America. As Nicole Gelinas notes in the New York Post, murders also fell in other major countries in 2020:

How about Italy, hit hard and early by the pandemic? There, murders fell by 14%, to 271 from 315.

France with its troubled banlieues? The country’s murders were down 2% in 2020, to 863. Continue reading

Car Crashes Down, Fatalities Up in 2020

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

Virginia transportation officials are puzzling over a divergence in road safety statistics during the COVID epidemic last year. The number of crashes on Virginia roads fell 15% to 20% below the level of a normal year while the number of fatalities climbed by 2.4% and serious injuries by 5.3%, reports The Virginia Mercury.

The numbers worsened in what officials termed the “belt, booze and speed” categories, with a 16.3% increase in speed-related deaths ad 13% in “unrestrained” deaths. In crashes in which wearing a seat belt was an option, 56% of the people who died weren’t wearing one. Continue reading