FBI Director Blames 'Ferguson Effect' for Rise in Violent Crime
'A chill wind...has blown through American law enforcement'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2015 12:45 PM CDT
FBI director James Comey says camera phones and viral videos are intimidating police officers and emboldening criminals.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(Newser) – The top law-enforcement official in the country blamed cellphone cameras and the "Ferguson effect" for the increase in violent crime being seen in many cities, the New York Times reports. "I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind that has blown through American law enforcement over the last year,” FBI director James Comey told the University of Chicago Law School Friday. He said the extra scrutiny on officers following national police brutality scandals is making them less aggressive and emboldening criminals. According to the AP, Comey said officers have told them they are "taunted" by youths with cellphone cameras as soon as they exit their vehicles. "They told me, 'We feel like we're under siege and we don't feel much like getting out of our cars,'" Comey said.

Comey said the end result of this fear of being the next YouTube star is that officers spend less time on the streets and don't question suspicious individuals, the Times reports. However, Comey admitted he has no data to back up his claim. According to the AP, he said cheaper heroin, guns, and street gangs getting small could also be contributing the the increases in homicides and shootings in most of America's 50 biggest cities. The Times reports Justice Department officials reacted angrily to Comey's views. The department is putting an emphasis on holding officers accountable for civil-rights violations. And an ACLU spokesperson tells the AP officers should be able to conduct themselves professionally whether they are on camera or not.