Last Weekend’s Foiled Synagogue Attack Shows How Old-Fashioned Policework Can Save Jewish Lives

November 23, 2022 | Charles Fain Lehman
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On Saturday, two men were arrested in New York City, carrying a gun, ammunition, an eight-inch knife, and a swastika armband. Police believe, based on social-media postings and other evidence, that the pair were en route to carry out a massacre in a synagogue. Charles Fain Lehman writes:

The incident throws into stark relief the city’s continuing problem with anti-Semitic crime. Crimes against Jews in New York spiked in 2019, dipped briefly during the pandemic, and then rose again in 2021 and 2022. The NYPD reported 208 anti-Semitic hate crimes through September of this year—9 percent more than in all of 2018, and 41 percent more than all of 2017.

This wave, and a nationwide increase in reported hate incidents more generally, is often understood as an ideological problem. Dangerous ideas are circulating on the left and right, the theory goes, and until we suppress them, . . . will continue unabated. But what this weekend’s takedowns show is that stopping such crimes doesn’t require changing hearts and minds. It needs smart, old-fashioned detective work, backed up with unwavering support by civilian leadership.

We often think about such crimes as different from others because they are motivated by bias. This is true as regards their social significance, and as regards their eligibility for enhanced criminal charges. But thinking too much about difference in motivations risks running afoul of the fallacy of root causes—focusing on what causes crime, rather than on what the most effective means to address it are.

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