8/02 Liberal Think Tank: Exile Doesn’t Work

Liberal Think Tank Finds That Project Exile Doesn’t Work
Larry Pratt

In a previous column I wrote about the blatantly un-Constitutional program known as Project Exile which has been enthusiastically endorsed by Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich, a Republican, who is running for governor in Maryland.

Ehrlich has said that Project Exile has “worked” in Richmond, Virginia; thus, it will work in Maryland. And, in a letter-to-the-editor in the Roll Call newspaper (1/28/02), Jim Kessler, Policy and Research Director of Americans For Gun Safety, says Project Exile in Richmond, Virginia, has “reduced gun crime dramatically.”

Well — you guessed it — none of this is true.

An article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper (4/01/02) says that, according to a study by the liberal Brookings Institution, “the highly touted Project Exile had little to do with a decline in Richmond’s firearm homicide rate…. The researchers found that the drop in gun homicide rates after the implementation of Project Exile in 1997 was not unusual. They say it would have been likely to occur without it.”

In other words, enforcing the existing gun laws — the core of Project Exile — has no impact on crime.

In fact, GOA found that the murder rate in Richmond began to decline two years before Project Exile began — when a concealed firearm carry law went into effect.

Now, what’s exceptionally interesting about the Brookings study — which examined gun homicides in Richmond and other East Coast cities from 1990 to 1999 — is that it was done by two pro-gun-control individuals: University of California at Berkeley Professor Steven Raphael and Jens Ludwig, a professor at Georgetown University.

The Times-Dispatch quotes Professor Ludwig as saying, about Richmond’s Project Exile: “I’m actually surprised that we didn’t see an ‘Exile’ effect. I thought there would be something there…. The question is, did the crime trend in Richmond look any different than what you would have expected in the absence of ‘Exile’?…. Did crime go down by more in Richmond than you would have expected by looking at what was going on in other cities at the same time?” The answer to that, says Professor Ludwig, is: “No.”

OK. So, what is Rep. Ehrlich’s evidence that Richmond’s Project Exile has “worked”? Well, when asked this question, one piece of evidence supplied by his Congressional office is a copy of an article written by Austin Banks about Project Exile in New Orleans, Louisiana. In this piece, Banks, Public Information Officer for the ATF’s Field Division in New Orleans, says: “Local authorities credit Project Exile with playing a big role in knocking down the crime rate in New Orleans.”

But, alas, there’s nothing in Banks’ article about the “crime rate” in New Orleans. So, we contact Banks and ask him: “What data do you have, before and after Project Exile, which shows that this program has played ‘a big role’ in reducing crime committed by people with guns?” Banks replies, incredibly, that he has no such data.

Q: “Are you aware of anybody who has any data to support what you wrote?”

A: (pause) “I don’t know. You can do your own research.”

OK. So, we do our own research. We call and interview Sgt. Paul Accardo who works in Public Affairs at the New Orleans Police Department. We ask him about crimes committed with guns in two categories: murders (98 percent of which are with guns) and armed robbery. We ask for data before and after Project Exile in his city which began in early 1999. Here’s what he told us:

Murders: 1994, 425; 1995, 364, down 14.35 percent; 1996, 350, down 4.37 percent; 1997, 266, down 24 percent; 1998, 230, down 13.53 percent; 1999, 159, down, 30.87 percent.

Hmmmmmm. Do you see any “big role” played here by Project Exile in “knocking down the crime rate”? Nope. For five years prior to Exile, the murder rate was in a steady decline.

OK. Now, armed robberies: 1994, 3916; 1995, 4267; 1996, 4509; 1997, 2999; 1998, 2195; 1999, 1981.

Again, do you see any “big role” here played by Project Exile? Neither do I. What I do see is armed robberies declining before Project the same as the murder rate.

Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich, the Republican candidate for governor in Maryland, says that Marylanders have told him they are worried about “the quality of leadership” in the Free State. He says Marylanders are looking for “a new direction” in the way their state government is run. He says he believes the citizens of his state “want to be able to trust their leaders.”

If all of this is true — and who can disagree with such glittering generalities — then Ehrlich ought to forget about Project Exile. The program has been an un-Constitutional flop. And by enthusiastically advocating Project Exile, and vowing to bring it to Maryland, Ehrlich has certainly not shown a “new direction” for Maryland.

Hopefully Ehrlich will find a truly new direction and put Project Exile in File 13.