State Capitol. Photo by Markus Schmidt.
State Capitol. Photo by Markus Schmidt.

The recent crime report from the Virginia State Police should alarm every Virginian.

Murder is up 10 percent, kidnapping is up 9 percent, human trafficking offenses are up 17 percent, and weapons offenses are up 6 percent. Simple and aggravated assaults are up by 6 and 4 percent, respectively.

Why? Because during their two years in power, Virginia Democrats did everything they could to make our laws more friendly to criminals. I and many of my Republican colleagues in the General Assembly warned against these extreme policies, and as predicted, the results have been disastrous.

From severely curtailing the authority of police officers to initiate routine traffic stops unless the reasons are exceedingly obvious, to opening prison doors early for felons by expanding “good time” credit, Democrats passed a laundry list of reckless policies in two short years that have made Virginia less safe. And when my fellow Republicans tried to undo the worst of these changes, Democrats refused to budge.

Should someone who commits a crime of violence with a firearm get out of jail early? Republicans said no, but Democrats said yes. Should someone who commits a second felony with a firearm spend more time in jail? Republicans said yes, Democrats said no. Should someone charged with a serious felony like murder have a higher hill to climb before being granted bail? Republicans said yes, Democrats said no.

Calendar year 2022 was the first full year those changes were in effect– and it’s clear that these policies are hurting the very communities they supposedly were meant to help. The impact has been felt right here in Lynchburg, as our community has seen an increase in crime that has only been made worse by these reckless policies.

Virginia Democrats continue to overlook how their hastily implemented legislation has failed to address the experiences of victims of violent crimes and the pervasive fear for personal safety that many residents of Virginia currently endure. Even after Roanoke’s Democrat-dominated Council begged the General Assembly to roll back the policies Democrats enacted during their two years in power, they still blocked virtually every Republican effort to change course.

Worse, Democrats seem to have learned nothing from the failure of their criminal-first, victim-last policies. Just this year they tried to end the concept of consecutive sentencing. If successful, they would have allowed violent offenders to serve multiple sentences simultaneously, leading to an early release.

They also tried to let any criminal have a “second look” at their sentence after 15 years, requiring rape victims to face their attackers again, and the families of murder victims to relive the trauma of losing their loved ones yet again, just to keep the killer in jail.

The contrast could not be more distinct as we head to the voting booth this fall. Our Republican team is working to create safer communities for every Virginian while Democrats are working to make life easier for violent felons. That’s something to think about.

Walker is a member of the House of Delegates from Lynchburg. He is a Republican.