James Comey doesn't have quantitative proof, but the FBI director has a hunch as to why there's been an uptick in violent crimes in some urban areas. The "viral video effect" is something he's used in the past to explain the recent spurt of seemingly less-aggressive policing, the New York Times reports—a phenomenon in which cops avoid going after suspects because they don't want to end up as the next viral video. "There's a perception that police are less likely to do the marginal additional policing that suppresses crime—the getting out of your car at 2 in the morning and saying to a group of guys, 'Hey, what are you doing here?'" he said Wednesday. His comments were spurred by his review of a Major Cities Chiefs Association quarterly report that showed rising crime rates—especially murder rates—in dozens of cities, especially Las Vegas and Chicago, per USA Today.
"I don't know what the answer is, but holy cow, do we have a problem," Comey said of what's also known as the "Ferguson effect" (after Ferguson, Mo.). "A whole lot of people are dying. I don't want to drive around it." Comey noted most murder victims were black or Hispanic men and that his assessment was derived from private chats with police officials, in which he was told that "lots and lots of police officers" aren't confronting suspects because of their wariness of cameras filming their every move. Comey brought up the same issue in October, inciting ire from the police and even the White House. "I was very worried about it last fall and I am in many ways more worried," he said, per Politico, imploring the national media to pay more attention to the issue. The director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, meanwhile, tells the Times that the FBI chief "ought to stick to what he knows. He's basically saying that police officers are afraid to do their jobs with absolutely no proof." (The FBI has promised to start keeping better track of deaths by cop.)