Fourteen months ago, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said there had been significant progress in making New York City subways safer. The progress, it seems, wasn’t significant enough. On Wednesday, Hochul announced that the National Guard and State Police would be conducting bag checks at the city’s busiest transit stations in order to combat a recent spate of violent crimes.

While the move may be necessary to keep commuters and tourists safe, it’s an astonishingly bad optic for a Democratic governor to offer her political party as the nation moves past Super Tuesday and looks to the general election. Her announcement comes on the heels of Donald Trump’s victory speech Tuesday, which The New York Times described as “short on celebration or exultation and long on sinister evocations of what he portrayed as a grim fate for the country if President Biden is re-elected.”

As sinister evocations go, however, Hochul has Trump beat. Nothing says “This city is unsafe” as loudly as uniformed soldiers standing watch. Just like nothing says “This country is unsafe” like images of young men crossing an unsecured southern border, or a ransacked “zombie” CVS, its shelves empty because of crime. Maybe this is not a huge problem for Hochul, whose term doesn’t end until 2027, but crime is a problem for Democrats on the ticket in 2024.

Most discussion of Biden’s vulnerability in the upcoming election has to do with his age, his immigration policies and his failure to find an Israel-Gaza strategy that doesn’t repel young Americans who support Palestine. But crime is also a vulnerability for the president, even though violent crime and property crime both declined in 2023, according to FBI statistics.

Regardless of what the numbers say, many Americans don’t feel safe, and fear — not statistics — is what they’ll take with them into the voting booth. According to Gallup, “More than three-quarters of Americans, 77%, believe there is more crime in the U.S. than a year ago, and a majority, 55%, say the same about crime in their local area.”

Significantly, the number of Americans reporting that someone in their household has been a victim of crime edged up last year. Again, per Gallup, “Overall, a combined 28% say they or someone in their household has been victimized in the past year by one of seven different crimes asked about in the survey, including vandalism, car theft, burglary, robbery, armed robbery, sexual assault and battery. The composite figure is up from 23% when the question was last asked in 2021 and from 20% — the low point in the trend — in 2020.”

Elizabeth Wickham, a blogger in Arizona, recently wrote that she knows two people who were mugged within two weeks. “If I know two people mugged in a short amount of time, this must be happening frequently,” she wrote.

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Even people who don’t know anyone personally affected by crime have likely seen the troubling images that circulate on social media of “flash mob robberies” in which groups of people descend on a store and make off with everything of value. While a news report by NPR tried to push back against retailers’ claims that these sorts of mob crimes are increasing, a spokesman for the National Retail Association said that violent crime in retail stores is up, like overall store losses. (NPR also noted that not every city sends crime data to the FBI — nearly a third did not in 2022 — giving us cause to be suspicious of reports that say crime went down in 2023. The reporting rate in California, for example, was just 49%, according to The Marshall Project.)

The fact is, although a writer for The Washington Post tried to spin a story about a local “zombie CVS” into a “late-capitalism horror story,” and decried “moral panic” over petty theft, no theft is petty if you’re trying to have a moral nation.

For all of America’s problems, stores are not being set upon by a generation of starving Jean Valjeans; the flash mobs are stealing designer goods and Nikes, not bread, and they’re doing it not because they have to, but because they can. There has been a “dearth in active policing,” one person told the Post, and many stores have told their security guards not to chase thieves. Joe Biden may not be responsible for that, but the progressive wing of his party certainly is.

What Biden does have to take ownership of, however, is the increasing sense that our country is less safe because of bad actors coming across the border. You don’t have to go to Fox News to see the numbers; here’s what’s been reported by The Washington Post: “Illegal border crossings soared in the months after Biden took office,” averaging 2 million each year. Under Trump, most migrants were from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras; under Biden, “Migrants from Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Senegal and Mauritania — along with other nations in Africa, Europe and Asia — are crossing from Mexico in numbers U.S. authorities have never seen.” The biggest spikes in illegal crossings are from Colombia and Venezuela, the Post said.

Which brings us to Laken Riley, the 22-year-old nursing student who was murdered while she was out for a run in Georgia. An undocumented immigrant from Venezuela was arrested in connection with her death. One writer has decried the use of Riley’s death as “more grist for America’s forever culture war,” and to be sure, some conservative commentators have gone over the top in blaming Biden’s policies for her death. But we also can’t ignore the fact that a concerning number of news accounts are mentioning Venezuelan migrants in connection with American crime, from retail theft in Illinois to cell phone robberies in New York. In Arizona, Wickham has been told by local law enforcement that a crime ring from South America is responsible for a series of break-ins in her city. She says she used to not lock her door when she was home during the day. She does now.

This is not to demonize our neighbors to the south, or to say that everyone crossing the border means to do us harm. My daughter-in-law is from Ecuador, and I have traveled there and dearly love South America and its people. But as many commentators have pointed out, if just 1% of people crossing our southern border have ill intent, that’s 20,000 people. Which is why, as the National Guard checks bags at Grand Central Station and stores are putting everyday products like toothpaste and deodorant under lock and key, it’s Democrats who have another reason to be scared this year.