Op eds

This op-ed first appeared in the Ouachita Citizen on June 29, 2023. 

Crime is a serious problem in America. Why? Bad ideas are poisoning public policy and eroding public safety.

Some people in power who should know better think cops are a bigger problem than criminals. And they’ve got more empathy for criminals than they do for the law-abiding people those criminals robbed, maimed, or killed.

It’s pure lunacy. And it’s making life worse for Louisianians.

Louisiana has the second-highest homicide rate in the nation. As a city, New Orleans led the nation in homicides in 2022. Baton Rouge’s burglary rate is 330 percent higher than the national average. Shreveport landed on a list of the most dangerous metro areas after a 21.3 percent increase in violent crime.

This crime wave is not limited to urban areas. Residents in rural parishes are just as likely to be murdered as city dwellers, according to data from the CDC.

These are not just statistics.

Each homicide tears apart a family. Each violent carjacking destroys the sense of safety people deserve. Each robbery is a devastating blow to families when money is tight because of soaring inflation. And each business struggling with vandalism or shoplifting has no choice but to pass the cost of these crimes onto their law-abiding customers.

You don’t need to be Einstein’s cousin to understand what’s driving this crime wave: anti-cop rhetoric, soft-on-crime policies, and the idea that criminal justice is usually unjust.

Hating cops has become a status symbol for the loon wing of the progressive movement. They have spent years spewing vitriol at law enforcement and working to defund the police.

Now, we face a severe police officer shortage nationwide, especially in Louisiana. The Louisiana State Police were 300 officers short of the recommended staffing levels. New Orleans is short hundreds of officers, too. Baton Rouge’s police vacancy rate climbed from 30 officers in 2016 to 105 officers in 2022. Shreveport needed 135 additional officers as of March.

We need cops to enforce the law. Duh. But even if we filled every police vacancy, catching the offender is only half the job. Some public officials persist in backing soft-on-crime policies that quickly return criminals to the streets after they are apprehended to victimize even more law- abiding citizens.

Some woke prosecutors in cities like San Francisco and Chicago decline to charge even violent criminals. When woke prosecutors actually decide to press charges, they cut plea deals that avoid time behind bars.The national narrative makes it harder for good law enforcement to keep good people safe. Several years ago, the United States Congress tried criminal justice reform at the federal level. I said then that the bill was backward. It favored criminals over victims. It forgot that the ultimate goal is and must be justice. But that bad bill sailed through Congress and shortened the sentences of thousands of convicted criminals.

I opposed the First Step Act because I feared it could lead to more families being victimized. And sadly, that has been the case. Since the First Step Act became law, 11 percent of prisoners who received early release have committed additional crimes, including murder.

Misguided people haven’t just opened the prison doors; they’ve made our border more open than ever, and that allows for an untold number of criminals to enter America. Even when overwhelmed border agents are able to detain those crossing the border illegally, our broken catch-and-release policies allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country for years.

Cartels exploit our open border to drench Louisiana communities with fentanyl. Police in Monroe report that upwards of 64% of the drugs they confiscate are laced with fentanyl.

But when I tried to increase the prison sentences for fentanyl dealers, my Democratic colleagues blocked my bill because they’re more concerned about the size of our prison population than they are about the tens of thousands of Americans that fentanyl kills each year.

Only in Washington would someone be more worried about a criminal’s comfort than a victim’s pain. Or find concerned parents at school board meetings more dangerous than terrorists sneaking across our open border. Or think policing is a bigger threat than crime.

The government’s first job is to protect people and their property. By demonizing law enforcement while coddling criminals, woke lawmakers and prosecutors have endangered innocent Americans.

I won’t let Washington ignore the carnage that has unfolded, and I’ll keep fighting for policies that restore safety and order to our country and our state. Without order, there can be no justice.