Berkeley over the weekend experienced a tragic murder of a 67 year old chemical engineer by a 23 year old youth. Twenty-three year old Daniel DeWitt, apparently mentally unstable and not on antipsychotic medication, was in the front yard of Peter Cukor's home when he and his wife came home last Saturday. Cukor asked DeWitt to leave, went inside and called the police, then went across the street to a fire station to seek help. When Cukor returned, DeWitt beat and killed him with a potted plant.
I happen to live nearby, but don't know the victim or the suspect. But beyond the tragedy of the death, I cannot help but think that the murder is unfortunately the result of the left-wing that runs riot here in the Bay Area. First, police did not respond to the first phone call because their resources were devoted to handling an Occupy Oakland protest that attempted to take over — of all things — International House, a Berkeley campus building that houses foreign students and visitors. Deb Saunders at the SF Chronicle has blogged that the more that Occupy Oakland and similar movements consume the limited policing budgets of cities hit by recession, the less resources are available to fight crime (Oakland, a medium sized city, had 103 murders last year, but has had to spend $3 million a year on the occupy protests). This terrible murder focuses the mind on the trade-off between protecting the community from crime and coddling anarchist protesters (as the mayor of Oakland has been) in a way that abstract figures do not.
Second, the fact that DeWitt was on the street to begin with might be the result of the de-institutionalization agenda favored by the Left. In hindsight, it seems clear that DeWitt should never have been on the streets, especially since he was refusing to take his medication. DeWitt's mother blamed "the system" for not providing enough mental health resources for her son, who apparently was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Some argue that Republicans — particularly President Reagan — cut funding for these institutions. But no matter what resources are available, because of "progressive" court challenges, it is extremely difficult to keep someone in a mental institution against their will, with the result that more unfortunates like DeWitt are released from hospitals and potentially dangerous to innocents around them.