Remember Nellie Bowles, the erstwhile New York Times tech reporter who started dating Bari Weiss, wrote a couple articles that elicited mildly polarized reactions, and quit her job to write reactionary news roundups for her girlfriend’s Substack? If not, that’s basically it.
Bowles’s weekly contribution to Weiss’ “Common Sense” is called “TGIF.” It comes out on Fridays. Today’s installation mostly comprises standard Bowles fare: updates on anti-“CRT” initiatives, inflation, Trump derangement syndrome, and a reference to the Washington Examiner’s “great reporting.” But towards the end, Bowles tells the following anecdote:
We have to live differently in a crime wave: Los Angeles likes to give me TGIF content. This week, our car was stolen right out of our own driveway. Not a fancy car, just a regular old Honda, but I’d left the key in the cup holder like an idiot (my dad upon hearing this just laughed). In 2014, there were 13,953 cars stolen in Los Angeles. In 2021, it was more than 24,000. In New York, car theft is up 92% between 2019 and 2021.
When crime rises like this, you feel it. We all have to start living like it, myself included. It doesn’t feel good though. Trusting makes us happy and makes a better, stronger, richer society. The stress of living in an unsafe neighborhood makes for worse pregnancy outcomes and poorer mental health. Having to think a lot about our physical safety is a mental and physical tax.
Man, this crime wave sure is rough. No one is safe. You can’t even leave your keys in the car these days. The trauma of “having to think a lot about our physical safety” vis-à-vis locking one’s car can indeed take a “mental and physical tax.” One thing you can still do these days is hold up a single anecdote as representative of a broader social issue, and make a specious rhetorical jump from your own personal experience with theft to the poor pregnancy outcomes it will wrought on your neighborhood. On that front, Bowles is safe. Just look at the countless other media outlets parroting the same talking points about a major crime wave.
Unfortunately, the “crime wave” Bowles is describing is a little more complicated than she’s making it sound. The latest crime statistics from the LAPD show that, while certain crimes, like car theft, have increased since 2020, property theft overall has fallen in that same period. These same statistical mismatches appear in the national crime data, as Judd Legum recently pointed out: “You might be surprised to learn that, according to FBI data cited by [Sen. Tom] Cotton, property crime declined significantly in 2020,” Legum wrote. “It continues a decades-long trend of fewer property crimes.”
In fact, the article Bowles herself cites offers a partial explanation for the uptick in Los Angeles car theft: “Law enforcement officials have said that numerous vehicles go missing because drivers leave their key fobs in the cup holder after parking.” Something to keep in mind when Nellie gets her new Honda.