The Loki Effect: How Crime Became the Latest Crisis Blamed on the Pandemic

Below is my column in The Hill on the rise in crime, particularly “smash and grab” operations. This weekend, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was hit by business groups for denying that there is a rise in such crime. Absent such denials, however, the cause of the rise in crime remains a matter of fierce debate. The White House and others have reached for a familiar culprit: the Pandemic. Call it the Loki Effect.

Here is the column:

Crime is raging across the country, from violent attacks to brazen shoplifting to mob “smash and grab” attacks. The White House this week had a simple answer for the cause of this rising lawlessness: It was not “defund the police” efforts, or more restrictive policies for police and prosecutors. It was the familiar scourge cited in debates ranging from infrastructure to supply chains to tax increases — the pandemic.

The pandemic now seems to have reached the mythic level of gods who once were blamed for everything that went wrong in life. Africans had Anansi the Spider, while the Norse had the trickster Loki. Both were known to assume different identities to wreak disorder or steal precious things.

For politicians, it is useful to have a lurking Loki to explain that social problems are not really of their making, the result of their failures. The Loki factor was evident in the press conference this week when Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked about the rising lawlessness seen in major cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles: “Does the president still think that crime is up because of the pandemic?” White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied that “many people have conveyed that.”

Doocy persisted: “So when a huge group of criminals organizes themselves and they want to go loot a store — a CVS, a Nordstrom, a Home Depot until the shelves are clean — do you think that’s because of the pandemic?” Psaki replied: “I think a root cause in a lot of communities is the pandemic, yes.”

That damned Loki.

Whole stores have been ransacked by gangs, and the crime is sweeping large and small businesses alike. At the same time, shoplifting has reached such high levels in cities like San Francisco that stores like Walgreens are closing up due to the losses.

Yet, some in the media have echoed the spin that such brazen crimes are simply responses to the dire conditions caused by the pandemic. When the CBS morning news played a clip of a man nonchalantly clearing a shelf of hair-care products into a garbage bag and then riding his bike out of a Walgreens, co-host Tony Dokoupil insisted that it seems like “an act of desperation. I mean, you’re not getting rich off what you take from a Walgreens, you’re getting probably something you need. I don’t know the details of that particular case.” Indeed, the first priority for most people in a pandemic is to steal dozens of hair-care products.

It also appears that pandemic sustenance-gatherers felt compelled to grab $79,000-worth of purses from a Givenchy store in New York. Purses certainly do appear to be a COVID necessity across this accessory-deprived nation: When a gang hit Burberry’s on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, they ran past an assortment of clothing to grab high-priced purses, too.

Crimes have gotten so bad in New York that the CEO of Bank of America this week sent out suggestions on how employees should “dress down” and take other survival measures to avoid victimization. Citibank is offering car services to avoid having to walk the streets of the city.

For years, many of these cities have seen calls to “defund the police,” and many, like New York City, have cut police budgets. Groups like the ACLU insisted that “defunding police will make us safer.” Undercover units and gun-violence units have been eliminated; police practices, from the pursuit of certain suspects to traffic enforcement, have been curtailed or stopped. Prosecutors also have faced policy and legal changes on decriminalizationparole opposition and other law-enforcement limitations.

In some cities, like San Francisco, police largely stopped responding to shoplifting calls after state law was changed to make the theft of merchandise worth $950 or less just a misdemeanor. Career prosecutors have quit there after the election of District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who is blamed for a sharp decrease in prosecutions.

In New York, Democratic politicians have pushed through sweeping criminal reforms that include “clean slate” legislation that would seal criminal misdemeanors after three years and felonies after seven years. The convictions would later be expunged completely; millions of offenses erased. That includes violent offenses.

While many politicians still call for “reimagining policing,” that imagination does not extend to seeing a cause-and-effect with rising crime levels. Instead, it is the Loki effect of … the pandemic.

The fact is that most criminals are rational actors who make a calculus of risk in the commission of offenses. The mobs hitting stores like Bloomingdales are organized gangs. Even shoplifters stealing from stores like Costco and Target are known to quickly sell the goods on the internet through fences.

In 1968, University of Chicago economist Gary Becker wrote his famous article, “Crime and Punishment,” in which he argued that criminals make calculations based on both the certainty and the severity of punishment. If you increase the certainty or likelihood of punishment, you can achieve deterrence with lower levels of punishment. Conversely, if there is a low detection rate for crime, you can deter some crimes with higher levels of punishment.

What is happening in cities like San Francisco is that both the certainty and the severity of punishment has fallen below deterrence levels.

Consider the recent brazen smash-and-grabs at malls in the city, in which almost $350,000 worth of goods were stolen. After rising complaints from citizens, the city finally moved aggressively and arrested 14 people. Yet all were immediately released upon processing under “no bail” laws. If prosecuted, they expect relatively light sentences. For other felons, this is an easy calculation: Hundreds of thousands of dollars in goods can be stolen with a low likelihood of capture and a relatively low severity of punishment.

While the Biden White House may not see the cause-and-effect realities, these felons certainly see the cost-benefit realities.

We are all living in a pandemic, but most of us do not look for a Givenchy store to grab an essential diamond-encrusted purse. That is the action of someone who is certain about the value of the purse — but not about the likelihood of prosecution.

It still remains unclear whether this pandemic was man-made or just a natural occurrence. However, the rise in crime in our cities is strictly a man-made epidemic.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

177 thoughts on “The Loki Effect: How Crime Became the Latest Crisis Blamed on the Pandemic”

  1. Men at work:
    Don’t talk to the dolled up females who flirt. Only talk if you have a camera and another witness there. Certainly don’t let some broad lean up and kiss you.
    There is a scam out there to accuse you of Cuomo activity.

  2. Trillions of dollar have been poured into various programs over the decades, Welfare, edcucation, etc. What good has it done? Why does society still have all of these ills, even after all the money that has been wasted to cure them? When I hear about requests for money for new “programs”, I just roll my eyes. Programs are just con-jobs for parasitic grifters.

  3. For me it comes down to your philosophical belief of whether or not the core nature of a human being is good or evil.
    If you believe the nature of human beings is good, why spend taxpayers money on extra police protection. Human beings
    will make the right choice for themselves and for society.

    If you believe that the core nature of humans is evil, then we become a society where everyone does what right in their own eyes and our
    society collapses into chaos. It doesn’t take a philosopher to see when left without any government structure of law and order, people
    gravitate to towards evil.

    1. core nature of a human being is good or evil.

      The core nature of humans is self centered ego. It can be addressed culturally. Shift the percentages. But Selfishness it the “root cause” to use a lefttist talking point.

  4. You can generate a pandemic without altering a virus. Is a pandemic manmade because it was generated in a lab or manmade because political entities ignored or obfuscated it’s origins and failed to warn other health authorities about potential dangers. Was catapulting a dead body over the wall into a besieged city, where there was starvation and people were ripe for an epidemic outbreak, a manmade pandemic or a natural occurrence. A common siege tactic of our ancestors. Commenting on the origin of the virus in this column is just, once again, obfuscation. Change the subject when the author has made a point the you really don’t like or would like to ignore. I think the professor is clearly correct. We have had “reform” in previous decades about justice and sentencing and they have tended to not go well.

  5. Where will Democrats get their golden eggs from when they have killed all the geese that lay them?

  6. Hey, Biden! The government that governs least governs the best! Stop it with your Soviet-style controlled economy!

  7. I don’t believe it is related to the pandemic nor is it related to the reduction in the criminal code for certain crimes. In my opinion law enforcement is standing down because they do not like the way things are going for them and are looking the other way. The Law Enforcement community is the first to cry crocodile tears when things don’t go their way and now we are seeing the effects of that.

    1. Anon — Glad you specified “in my opinion,” because your opinion is devoid of facts. Just count the number of police who have been killed on the job in the last 2 years, and then say they are standing down. Common sense dictates that when you cut millions from their budget and cut the force by several hundred, you can’t expect those reduced numbers of cops to do the same job in the same amount of time that a full force would do. But people who start from the anti-police position will blame them for the increase in crime, despite all the logical fingers pointing to the leftist Soros-funded prosecutors and their political allies. Whether you blame Loki or the police, you’re suffering from the same delusions.

    2. do not like the way things are going for them and are looking the other way.

      You mean the beat cops are getting blamed for enacting the policy of Democrat leadership? And are getting tired of it? Seems like a reasonable assumption.
      Those cities with the most crime? Elected Democrat leadership. Governor, to County supervisors, to Mayors, to Sheriffs, to Prosecutors, to Police Chiefs. All Democrat. All following the Democrat agenda. 30 to 50 years its been going on. The People are getting exactly what they have voted for. Burning down the Cities? Democrat planned outcomes. Riots and looting? Democrat designed results.
      Don’t believe me. Check in with the sitting Vice President. She said the riots will continue when they were elected. And the riots Should continue. Because that’s the plan.
      Democrats cannot govern unless there is disaster, that can’t be allowed to go to waste. The mayhem allows executive action, by passing the legislative process. So guess who plans the disasters?

  8. Ok: and which party was it again that overblew the virus and instituted the lockdowns? I keep asking myself how anyone can look the dems in the face with anything but repulsion at this point; I guess the fact of the matter is that some people are really ok with totalitarianism. It could be that our protestations honestly do not register in their brains. What is happening in Australia isn’t supposed to happen in the free West. Scary stuff.

      1. Until I see multi year long term studies, particularly on the effects on those with autoimmune disorders I’m not touching them with a 10 foot pole. Up until this point when the FDA pronounced a medication “safe and effective” I knew that was the result of rigorous shot, medium, and long term studies and monitoring. Now they have thrown their lot in with every other panic mongering political shill.

        As far as I am concerned I now have nowhere to turn to for this or any future medication to trust.

      2. Yes. I have the ‘booster’ too. And the documentation to prove it. So too does everyone in my immediate circle. I wear my mask at the grocery. Go to **** you ignorant, and possibly paid gnat. Miss the point much? Do you honestly think you are convincing anyone of anything whatsoever? Pfft.

  9. So if I steal an Aston Martin, can I blame it on the pandemic — and get off scot free (and keep the car)?

    (Great op-ed, JT.)

      1. You don’t want an Aston Martin. They are unreliable, the parts are stupid expensive, and they lose resale value faster than an 87 Yugo.

            1. “Go with a BMW Z8.”

              Sorry, but there is only one “Bond” (and, thus, only one Bond car.) The rest are Bondish.

  10. When the criminals for Trunp invaded the capitol bldg no cop held up a gun and said “Stop or I’ll shoot!”. When the criminals for BLM invaded the shopping mall in West Florissant Rd in Ferguson several years back and crashed looted and burned, no cop said stop or I’ll shoot.

    This is all about lawyers, guns and money.
    Lord get me out of this!

    1. Liberty2nd — No cop held up a gun at the Capitol? Ashli Babbitt. And the Jan 6th rioters are now being prosecuted, while the BLM/Antifa thugs are being set free by leftist prosecutors (with a little help from Kamala Harris). Why do you think the Democrats grabbed the opportunity to turn a stupid 3-hour selfie riot into an “insurrection”? Look up the word “deflection.”

  11. It will be hard to get the genie back into the bottle without some serious changes at the local level.

  12. So you think COVID-19 was possibly manmade?

    Because after more than 100,000 samples taken from assorted mammals not a single sample matches this virus.

    The larger question? What are you trying to coverup?

  13. Good Morning Professor Turley….welcome to the Republican Party and Conservatism……very glad to have you aboard!

    The Good Professor is a Man of Principle….and I know that his article is based upon the reality of the situation as he sees it….and that does not require a any one particular political belief but just plain commonsense.

    1. I think Professor Turley is leaning that Democrats have turned into crazies that make no sense. I predict in the future he will be repeating Ronald Reagan’s quote (paraphrase?) “I didn’t leave the Democrat Party. It left me.

  14. COVID-19 myths have spread just about as quickly as the disease itself.
    One myth in particular just won’t go away… that this coronavirus is a man-made bioweapon.
    But by using the virus’ genetic sequence scientists have been able to debunk this myth once and for all.
    The answers lie in the spike proteins lining the outside of the virus, its uniqueness and how poorly this virus performed in computer simulations.
    In other words, if you wanted to make a virus you wouldn’t have chosen this one.
    Scientists believe that they can confidently say that the virus wasn’t created by humans and the myth going around is nothing more than that, a myth. So how do they know with such certainty?
    The key is in the virus’s genetic code. This is the genomic sequence for SARS-CoV-2.

    It was decoded in January 2020, just weeks after the world started to learn of this novel coronavirus. Each of those letters is a genetic building block known as a nucleotide, and when built up, they form an organism’s genetic code, which we can use to understand them. Each organism has a different code and a varying amount of nucleotides. A human has about three billion of them, whereas a virus, such as SARS-CoV-2 has about 30,000. Your genetic sequence can give information about your hair, eye color, sex, and lineage. And just like your genes give clues about who and where you come from, scientists can use a virus genome sequence to help explain where that virus originated as well. An ancestry test for viruses, if you will.

    1. do you think Moderna or Pfizer/Biontech designed a single candidate for their vaccine? No they came with probably thousands, ran them against the virus, tweaked many, ran them again, tweaked a little more,… then put forth their candidates. Some one that believes in science might believe no one would set out to design the spike protein, and that may be true – but science is iterative and where those iteration lead may be very different from where one starts.

      That is probably the dumbest explanation I have seen, besides believing the CCP

        1. cars occurred naturally, no one would set out to design a Lamborghini Aventador so cars must have occurred naturally.

          there is no evidence for zoonotic origin, nor man-made origin – I lean toward man made

          only morons are sure.

          1. Current-

            If there were a civil trial on the issue the evidence would easily meet the preponderance standard to justify a verdict that the virus emerged from the Wuhan lab.

            If exactly the same scenario occurred in Israel it would have been treated as absolutely conclusive from the UN on down to Biden’s basement and, of course, our anti-Semitic, West-Hating Media from NYT to CNN.

    2. Ronharold: “how poorly this virus performed in computer simulations.”

      But the virus seems to be doing pretty well in real life.

      Which is better? A computer simulation or what is actually happening?

        1. Vaccines Work:
          Does not stop contracting the virus, does not stop the spread of virus

          the mRNA works more like a therapeutic than a vaccine. Reduces, not eliminates, the symptoms.

      1. I feel really good about you being unvaccinated….yes I do…(stroking beard) hahahha…….you can join like-minded people who were also unvaccinated, hospitalized and buried.

    3. “An ancestry test for viruses, if you will.”

      Which exact DNA code was traced to which animal?

      Last I read, the correct answer is: None.

  15. If you believed the science, why is life beginning at conception still a debate? Cherry picking the science you agree with is just that.

    As for crime due to the pandemic, I don’t see grocery stores being looted.

  16. “The truth told with bad intent, beats all the lies you can invent.” William Blake

    It makes one wonder if the leaders in these cities and the ones in Washington D.C. are fully cognizant and are perpetrating a full scale manipulation complete with all the tools of psychological warfare to destroy order or are they “crazy or just plain stupid.”

    A fifth grader could figure this out.

  17. Rise in CRIME is due to the Social Justice WOKE LIBERAL LEFT WING DEMOCRATS policies, along with SOROS, ACLU, & etc.They ignore, refuse to condem the violence in Crime, destruction and rioting in cities by BLM/Antifa and others. They allow the destruction to go unpunished but turn the FBI on Parents who oppose CRT, Radical teachings and etc. In 2022 the DEMS are going to pay a heavy price at the ballot box and most DEM’s know it and yet they refuse to address the Crime and Rioting. Biden’s admin turns a blind eye they are fooooools

  18. So you think COVID-19 was possibly manmade? You’re full of it and surely you know you’re full of it: Turley says: “It still remains unclear whether this pandemic was man-made or just a natural occurrence.”

    I have no respect for you Turley for being an anti-science MAGA-brain – what an incredibly foolish anti-science statement. Just another boring, anti-science garbagepost gaslighting Democrats again. (yawn)

    Your anti-science stink draws plenty of MAGA-brained dunces to feed on your slop-science.

    1. I only see one person casting aspersions. Confidence doesn’t usually beget a tirade to defend one’s position. The professor needn’t even respond.

      1. ronharold2021 is a “true believer” in the state religion of Branch Covidians. This phenomenon (technical term in psychology = “mass formation”, basically crowd hysteria, in which individual viewpoints are sublimated in an overall adherence to an unquestioned narrative) is analyzed and explained by Prof. Mattias Desmet on a number of easily found videos on YouTube, but basically, it is a kind of crowd hysteria or mass psychosis being manipulated by the totalitarian wannabe politicians and greedy Big Pharma. Desmet explains this thoroughly and convincingly, and also the fact that such hypnotized “true believers” cannot easily be snapped out of their clinging to the Official Narrative (C), at least until an even more frightening or life-threatening situation comes along to break the spell (I would suggest that the realization of the disaster of incipient totalitarianism is much more frightening than a treatable virus—once a totalitarian regime takes control, it is unlikely to back down without a bitter fight endangering the lives and freedom of all citizens, possibly for generations.)

    2. ronharold

      As soon as I saw your vitriol, I knew that you are a Lefty.

      Why can’t you folks speak politely?

      Another potty mouth on the bypass list.

      1. Do I have proof you don’t attend church every Sunday? That’s how dumb your question is. I posted sufficient scientific proof that COVID-19 is NOT manmade. Where’s your proof that you have a better chance of living unvaccinated than vaccinated? The danger you impose upon yourself is greater than the danger presented to you had you taken the vaccine. The fact is 98% of persons hospitalized with COVID-19 were unvaccinated. 99% of persons hospitalized with COVID-19, DIED FROM COVID-19, and were unvaccinated. Are you that bad at math & science? You don’t seem like it. Clearly remaining unvaccinated presents a much greater danger to your health and even your life if you contract COVID. What are you thinking? You won’t catch COVID? Maybe you won’t catch COVID – but if you do, you have a much higher chance of dying if you are hospitalized with COVID. Good luck. You’ll need it.

        1. “I posted sufficient scientific proof that COVID-19 is NOT manmade.”

          You did not.

          Where’s animal zero? In Fauci’s imagination?

          And wake me when you get access to the Wuhan lab.

          “The danger you impose upon yourself is greater than the danger presented to you had you taken the vaccine.”

          Perhaps. Unless I have natural immunity — a scientific fact that the party of “science” evades.

          1. Odds are you will join the Unvaccinated in their final resting places. Peace Be Unto You…..Rest In Peace.

            A trio of conservative radio hosts died of Covid. Will their deaths change vaccine resistance?

            “There’s no question … when you read he [Phil Valentine] has it and then three weeks later he’s dead, it will get your attention,” a conservative host said.

            Each had publicly either mocked vaccination or derided broader vaccination efforts.

            Bernier, who called himself “Mr. Anti-Vax,” said on Twitter that the Biden administration’s push for vaccine intake was Nazi-esque.

            Farrel posted to Facebook in July: “why take a vax promoted by people who lied 2u all along about masks, where the virus came from and the death toll?” And Valentine questioned why he should get the shots and risk side effects when he was at low risk of death.

            Before they died, Farrel and Valentine changed their postures.


            1. “Odds are . . .”

              Odds are that my vaccination status has absolutely nothing to do with the validity of my argument — and is a transparent attempt at ad hominem and deflection.

                1. He’ll be fine. But when the hospitals get your frightened butt in the door and stick a tube in your mouth, shoot you full of kidney and liver killing drugs to force you into brain frying coma, then pump raw oxygen into your lungs till the lung linings give out, …maybe you can.

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