Posted 9/12/19


Despite redevelopment, South Bend’s poverty and crime
remain locked in an embrace

South Bend home

2015 shooting location, S. Liberty St. (image from Google maps)

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel. In 2013, one year into his first term, South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg (yes, the Presidential candidate) released a plan to revitalize the city’s neighborhoods by tearing down or refurbishing 1,000 vacant and abandoned homes in 1,000 days. In the end, about sixty percent of these bedraggled properties fell to the wrecking ball. To be sure, many residents were pleased to have these drug dens and hangouts for ruffians and the homeless gone. A colorful brochure promised that “reuse strategies” would quickly transform these now-empty spaces into parks and community gardens.

     Years later, vacant lots still abound. Still, Mayor Pete recently launched a program to help residents fund home remodels, and the city probably does look a bit prettier.

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     But our main concern is with crime. According to the FBI, South Bend changed reporting practices for the “violent crime” category in 2016, making reliable comparisons to prior years impossible. So we turn to murders. In 2010 South Bend had six homicides, yielding a not-so-bad rate of 5.8/100,000 pop., only one point worse than the national average of 4.8. Things, though, quickly deteriorated. South Bend closed out 2012, Mayor Pete’s first full year in office, with a depressing eighteen murders. That translated into a rate of 17.8, nearly four times the nation’s 4.7.

     As the graph illustrates, South Bend’s numbers have since fluctuated. But the trend doesn’t seem particularly favorable. In 2017, the most recent year with reliable data, the city recorded sixteen murders. While a 14.7 rate seems somewhat of an improvement, it was still far higher than the U.S. rate, which had ticked up to 5.7. Indeed, South Bend’s performance was so bad that it earned the city unwelcome recognition as 2017’s twenty-ninth most murderous municipality.

     Still, as we recently preached in “Repeat After Us”, when it comes to crime there really is no “South Bend” any more than there is a “New York City,” a “Baltimore,” or a “Los Angeles.” If we’re interested in causes, neighborhoods are what really counts. South Bend has plenty of those. An impressive website, “Neighborhood Resources Connection” (NRC) identifies more than two dozen. Many are blessed with resident associations that seem to brim with activity and good will.

     When it comes to building communities, though, poverty is a daunting obstacle. And South Bend’s numbers are alarming. According to the Census, 12.4 percent of individuals in the U.S. fell below the poverty level in 2000, and 14.6 percent in 2017. In South Bend the corresponding figures were 16.7% in 2000 and 25.4% - more than one in four – in 2017. For your area’s numbers go to American Fact Finder, enter city name or ZIP code and click on “poverty.” (Your writer did that. His predominantly working-class city came in at 15.8 percent, and the middle-class ZIP code where he resides returned a far more reassuring 4.3 percent.)

     If South Bend follows the well-known pattern, prosperous neighborhoods will have less crime, particularly of the violent kind, than their less-fortunate peers. Unfortunately, South Bend doesn’t break down crime by neighborhood. Fortunately, the city has been tracking and posting data about “criminally assaulted shootings” since 2015. According to a local official, each entry represents a purposeful, criminal shooting that wounded or killed someone other than the gunslinger. Gun crimes only: no suicides.

     There were 346 such shootings between January 2015 and December 2018. Turning to ZIP code as a stand-in for “neighborhood,” we were able to code all incidents but five with Google maps. We then used 2017 Census estimates to enter each ZIP code’s population and percent below poverty. Dividing assaultive shootings by number of residents, then multiplying by 100,000, yielded a cumulative, four-year shooting rate for each ZIP. These rates were then compared to percentage of residents under the poverty line. As poverty increased, what happened to the shooting rate?

     Here’s the data, with ZIP codes arranged by percent of individuals below the poverty line. (ZIP code 46556, for the University of Notre Dame, was omitted for technical reasons. Also note that several ZIP codes include locations outside the city limits.)

     Here are the graphs:


     Clearly, as percent of individuals below the poverty line goes up, so do the shooting rates. For the statistically-minded, the correlation was .688* (statistically significant, with less than five chances in one-hundred that the coefficient was produced by chance.) Controlling for population only reduced the association slightly, to .676. We also tested other plausible relationships, such as between population size and shooting rates. None of the coefficients approached significance.

     No, the measures aren’t in lock-step. After all, ZIP codes are imperfect surrogates for neighborhoods. Still, the results clearly support the notion that in South bend as elsewhere, poverty drives crime. Yet despite its evident problem, South Bend seems stuck in place. In a May 2018 op-ed about the city’s crime problems Mayor Buttigieg made absolutely no mention of its even more woeful economy. One year later the controversial police killing of a black resident would force him to return home during the Presidential campaign. Perhaps Hizzoner just couldn’t spare the attention. His conventional redevelopment initiatives are hardly the way to fight poverty. In fact, some fear they will lead to gentrification and adversely affect the city’s low-income residents.

     What to do? “Mission Impossible?” pointed out that even the best policing can’t offer a lasting remedy for the crime and disorder that accompany poverty. So fix poverty! According to the Urban Institute, that calls for a truly comprehensive approach that includes child care, transportation, job training, apprenticeships and summer jobs. One example, Jobs-Plus, provides employment opportunities, job training and financial incentives to residents of public housing projects in thirteen States. (Alas, Indiana’s not on the list.)

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     Fortunately, not everyone in South Bend has a tin ear. Mr. Buttigieg is not running for re-election. In his campaign for the Democratic nomination, former mayoral candidate Jason Critchlow went well beyond traditional bricks-and-mortar redevelopment to promise that, as mayor, he would “lead an effort to create training and entrepreneurship programs in order to assist residents in creating economic opportunities within their own community.” (Critchlow earned the local newspaper’s endorsement. But he failed to get the voters’ nod.)

     Again, look at those poverty numbers! We hope that whoever’s elected will focus on the disturbing fact that a great many of their constituents are, plainly speaking, poor. City leaders must go well beyond their evident preoccupation with the city’s physical decline and formulate a comprehensive plan for redeveloping South Bend’s human potential. Implement that and the consequences of poverty – rampant homelessness, poor health, unchecked crime and disorder – will disappear.


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But is it Really Satan?     Place Matters     Did the Times Scapegoat L.A.’s Finest? (I)

Repeat After Us     Mission Impossible     Be Careful What You Brag About (I)  (II)

Location, Location, Location

Posted 8/2/19


When it comes to crime, it’s neighborhoods that count

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel. There we were, wondering what to spout off about when our sleep-deprived Prez came to the rescue with yet another tweetstorm.

     What set him on the warpath? Ten days earlier, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D – Md.), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, had berated DHS Acting Chief Kevin McAleenan about the unconscionable treatment of illegal immigrants. After repeatedly interrupting McAleenan, the good Rep. blasted him with this:

    I’m talking about human beings. I’m not talking about people that come from, as the president said, shitholes. These are human beings. Human beings. Just trying to live a better life.

Natch, the President noticed. Displayed above is his second rapid-fire tweet. Here’s the first:

    Rep. Elijah Cummings has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous. His district is considered the Worst in the USA.

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Here’s the third, (temporarily) ending the salvo:

    Why is so much money sent to the Elijah Cummings district when it is considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States. No human being would want to live there. Where is all this money going? How much is stolen? Investigate this corrupt mess immediately!

     Rep. Cummings, who’s based in Baltimore, promptly swiped back. And as one might expect, the “fake media” took his side. In a news piece defiantly entitled “Baltimore to Trump: Knocking Our City Is Our Job, Not Yours” the liberally-inclined New York Times proclaimed that despite the city’s reputation for violence, “it so happens that many human beings do want to live in Baltimore.” That lukewarm endorsement was the story’s exact title in the paper’s July 29th. National edition, which lands somewhere on our driveway each morning.

     We’ll let the antagonists fight it out. Their squabble proved useful, though, as it illustrates one of our pet peeves: mindlessly comparing crime rates. “Location, Location, Location” tracked murders for thirteen major cities during 2002-2015. St. Louis, the indisputable champ, closed things out with a mind-boggling 59.6 killings per 100,000 pop. Nipping on its heels, Baltimore posted a deplorable 55.2. At the other, far safer end, our burg. of Los Angeles (7.2) and the Trumpster’s New York City (4.2) returned the lowest scores.

     We’ve since used the latest full UCR release to assess murder rates in 2017. St. Louis (66.1) and Baltimore (55.8) managed to get worse. Los Angeles (7.0) held steady, while New York City (3.4) improved. Baltimore’s homicide rate turned out sixteen times worse than the Big Apple’s. The raw numbers are stunning. New York City had 292 murders; Baltimore, whose population is one fourteenth the size, suffered 342. Even the Times had to concede that Rep. Cummings’ constituents aren’t in a happy place, crime-wise:

    Few denied that Baltimore is struggling, especially with violent crime — the city has recorded 32 more murders this year than New York, despite being about one-fourteenth the size.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s boast that New York City is “the safest big city in America” seems right on the money. Meanwhile, Baltimore is still in the doghouse. Trump’s no paragon of accuracy, but this time he nailed it.


     Well, not exactly. Our President’s most recent domicile in the Big Apple was an ultra-lux apartment in Manhattan’s fashionable Upper East Side (pop. 226,000, poverty ratio 7%, lowest in the city.) But there’s a lot more to New York than Fifth Avenue. It’s a really, really big place, with more than one-hundred distinct communities. Mayor de Blasio aside, the city’s own data reveals that these neighborhoods are by no means uniformly prosperous. Some are phenomenally (absurdly?) wealthy; others are chronically poor.

     Just follow the arrow. Jump across the East river. Venture deep into Brooklyn and you’ll find the Brownsville area (pop. 86,000, poverty ratio 28%, one of the worst in the city.) That’s where a few days ago, on July 27th, a gang member opened fire as folks gathered for an annual celebration. Twelve were shot, one fatally.

     While such extreme events are rare, Brownsville is indeed a very tough place:

  • Its police precinct, the 73rd., recorded thirteen murders during 2018. (Far larger Manhattan had but one.)
  • Brownsville’s 2013-2017 homicide rate, 16.9, was worst in the city. To compare, the Upper East Side was tied for best at 0.4. Yes, that’s zero point four. (For a detailed view of major crimes by precinct, click here.)

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     What’s our point? Neighborhoods in Los Angeles and New York (above and in “Be Careful What You Brag About”) vary considerably as to violence. Where economic indicators are favorable, violent crime is low. Where they’re not: fasten seat belts! Both cities, though, are blessed with a lot of affluence, keeping their overall homicide numbers at bay. If we wish to meaningfully compare murder across geographic space, we must go beyond abstract political boundaries. To that end, there really is no “Los Angeles” or “New York.” What there is, is neighborhoods. Crime is about the conditions under which people live. Control for factors such as poverty, unemployment rates and educational attainment and you’re all set!

     In our measly opinion, that caveat applies everywhere. Still, as data compiled by the Baltimore Sun demonstrates (see table), nearly every area in the struggling city is bedeviled by violence, some more than others. Rep. Cummings clearly has his work cut out.

     But if our Prez wants to rattle cages, we suggest he pick on New York City’s de Blasio. Here’s a recommended broadside: “How does it make you feel, your honor, that your city’s Brownsville neighborhood is saddled with a murder rate more than forty times worse than the Upper East Side? And how do you intend to improve things?”

     Um, we’re waiting!


4/11/20 Objections by civil rights activists led a Baltimore judge to put the brakes on a test program to have small planes shoot aerial footage of the city for 40 hours per week. According to police, the results would only be used to help solve violent crimes, of which the city has in abundance.

12/6/19 Low-income New York City neighborhoods have seen a rise in gang shootings. One Queens neighborhood has suffered thirty-two shot and twelve killed to date, twice last year’s toll. Special police teams patrol hot spots, and “neighborhood coordination officers” are contacting youth to prevent what violence they can. But guns are cheap and plentiful, and the warfare continues.

12/4/19 During the last four decades wage growth in major cities, including New York and Los Angeles, has stagnated for the lower classes while, thanks to the new technologies, zoomed upwards for the better-off. That, according to New York’s Federal Reserve Bank, has made New York City one of the “top 10 most unequal metropolitan areas in the country.”

9/30/19 NYPD officer Brian Mulkeen was accidentally shot and killed by other officers after he fired at an armed felon whom he encountered at a crime-ridden housing project in the Bronx. Although overall crime in  New York City is down, the area, patrolled by the 47th. Precinct, had ten shootings to date in 2018 but fifteen so far this year.

8/30/19 Eleven St. Louis children have been murdered since April, including three last weekend. A 54-year old man - so far, he’s the only person arrested in any of the killings - shot a fifteen year old boy dead. An eight-year old girl was also killed by gunfire, and a ten-year old girl and her parents were found dead in their apartment with puncture wounds.

10/13/19 A shooting at an unsanctioned “social club” in Brooklyn’s economically-challenged Crown Heights neighborhood (poverty level 24.3 pct.) left four dead and three wounded. A July shooting in Brooklyn killed one and wounded eleven. Patrolled by NYPD’s 77th. Precinct, Crown Heights has experienced an increase in murder, from one to date in 2018 to nine so far this year.

8/8/19 Seven dead and fifty-two wounded, including seventeen shot in a two-hour period. That was the toll last weekend in Chicago’s infamous West Side, a gang-ridden area “devastated by drugs and violence.” Those words, incidentally, were the Mayor’s.

8/2/19 During the early morning hours of Saturday, July 27th. Rep. Cummings and his wife were awakened at their Baltimore residence by an alarm warning of an intruder. Rep. Cummings reportedly confronted a man who then fled on a bicycle. Nothing was supposedly taken. Trump tweeted about that too.

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Should Police Treat the Whole Patient?     Don’t “Divest” - Invest!     Can the Urban Ship be Steered?

Did the Times Scapegoat L.A.’s Finest? (I)     Human Renewal     Workplace Without Pity

Be Careful (I)   (II)     Getting Out of Dodge     Location, Location, Location

Posted 7/1/19, edited 7/13/19


Decriminalizing illegal immigration would have serious consequences

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel. Given a belt-busting load of twenty candidates and only four hours air time, we didn’t expect that the Democratic debates of June 26 and 27 would dive into crime and justice in any depth. And for the most part we weren’t surprised. What’s more, the “arguments” that did take place seemed so fine-tuned to avoid offending ideological sensibilities – in this case, of the “blue” persuasion – that we were unsure whether the owners of those lips knew that should their quest prove successful they would be Constitutionally bound to faithfully execute the laws that already exist.

     That takes us to immigration. (We’ll be referring to debate transcripts published by the New York Times. Click here for a transcript of the first debate and here for the second.) Title 8, U.S.C., Sec. 1325, “improper entry by alien,” makes it a crime to sneak in. First offenders can draw six months in prison, and repeaters can get two years. That’s essentially how the law has read since 1950, when its text used the terms “misdemeanor” and “felony” to distinguish between penalties.

Click here for the complete collection of crime & punishment essays

     In all, the debaters seemed opposed to treating illegal entry as a crime. During the first round, former H.U.D. Secretary Julián Castro advanced perhaps the most extreme view. First, he called for repealing section 1325 and making immigration a strictly civil matter. While that drew nearly unanimous approval – Senator Cory Booker, Newark’s former mayor, promptly interjected “I already have” – Castro cranked it up by explicitly calling for the Government to establish pathways to citizenship for potentially “millions” of otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants already in the U.S. And as a back-handed concession to worry-warts, Castro also championed a new “Marshall plan” that would enable citizens of Central American countries to “find safety and opportunity” – meaning, of the economic kind – “at home instead of coming to the United States to seek it.”

     That’s a bold approach, and not everyone was sold. Instead, most of his colleagues tried to navigate around cost and ideology by specifically tailoring their remarks to families escaping violence. Among them was former Representative Beto O’Rourke. Even then, he apparently felt compelled to address the expense of admitting immigrants fleeing “the deadliest countries on the face of the planet” by suggesting that potentially impacted communities adopt his supposedly cost-effective “family case management” approach.

     Of course, laying out a welcome mat has all kinds of consequences. When it became obvious that the debaters were avoiding a key issue, NBC moderator Savannah Guthrie stepped in. Here are brief extracts from her tangles with Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Tim Ryan:

    GUTHRIE: He [Castro] wants to no longer have it be a crime to illegally cross the border. Do you support that? Do you think it should be a civil offense only? And if so, do you worry about potentially incentivizing people to come here?

    KLOBUCHAR: Immigrants, they do not diminish America. They are in America and I am happy to look at his proposal but I do think you want to make sure that you have provisions in place that allow you to go after traffickers and allow you to go after people who are violating the law. What I really think we need to step back and talk about is the economic imperative here and that is that seventy of our Fortune five hundred companies are headed up by people that came from other countries….

    GUTHRIE: Congressman Ryan, same question. Should it be a crime to illegally cross the border or should it be a civil offense only?

    RYAN: Well I—I agree with Secretary Castro. I think there are other provisions in the law that will allow you to prosecute people for coming over here if they are dealing in drugs and other things. That is already established in the law. So there is no need to repeat it and I think it’s a bore it we are talking about this father who got killed with his daughter and the issues here….

     Guthrie soon gave up trying to get a direct answer. On the next evening, NBC anchor Jose Diaz-Balart brought up decriminalization:

    DIAZ-BALART: If—if you would be so kind raise your hand if you think it should be a civil offense rather than a crime to cross the border without documentation? Can we keep the hands up so we can see them?

According to the New York Times, eight candidates put up their hands, while a ninth, former V.P. Joe Biden, “raised a finger.” During follow-up questions, all, including Biden, focused on their humanitarian obligation to help families fleeing violence and disorder:

    BIDEN: The first thing I would do is unite families. I would surge immediately billions of dollars’ worth of help to the region the immediately…second thing we have to do, the law now requires the reuniting of those families. We would reunite those families period and if not we would put those children in a circumstance where they were safe until we could find their parents….

Here’s a bit of what Senator Bernie Sanders had to say:

    SANDERS: …picking up on the point that Joe made, we got a look at the root causes. And you have a situation where Honduras, among other things, is a failing state, massive corruption. You got gangs who are telling families that if a 10-year-old does not join their gang, their family is going to be killed….

And here’s an extract from Representative Eric Swalwell’s reply:

    SWALWELL: Day one for me, families are reunited. This president, though, for immigrants, there is nothing he will not do two separate a family, cage a child, or erase their existence by weaponizing the census. And there is nothing that we cannot do in the courts and that I will not do as president to reverse that and to make sure that families always belong together….

     No one ventured into dangerous turf. And they really didn’t have to. Unlike his more probing colleague, Diaz-Balart didn’t probe the possible effects of creating incentives. Needless to say, none of the guests volunteered.

     One might think that for those, like Border Patrol agents, who must personally deal with the problem, creating incentives that generate even more illegal crossings might be the last straw. But it gets worse. Much worse. Should illegal immigration be decriminalized the issue of incentives would take a back seat to a more fundamental concern. As every border agent – indeed, as all cops well know – physical force is an intrinsic aspect of catching those who run away. But your blogger, who’s been there a few times, knows of no legal or procedural precedent that authorizes forcefully detaining someone who is neither a criminal suspect nor dangerously mentally ill. Given current controversies, allowing, let alone encouraging the use of force when no crime has been committed and no one is at risk of physical harm seems a non-starter. Indeed, it would likely require a new body of law.

     Bottom line: should section 1325 be repealed and illegal immigration ceases being a crime, all that Border Patrol agents will be able to do is beg for compliance. Well, good luck with that. Trump’s walls would have to go up. (Good luck with that, too.) There is one possible workaround. Section 1325 includes a provision that prohibits eluding “examination or inspection by immigration officers.” If that aspect remains a crime, illegal entry might be compared to, say, traffic enforcement. Doing forty in a twenty-five mile an hour zone isn’t a criminal offense. But if you don’t stop for the cop, the running away is. (It’s not a perfect analogy, as the high speeds and dangerous maneuvers intrinsic to getting away are crimes. But it’s as close as we can get.)

     And there’s yet another vexing issue. Even the staunchest anti-immigration types concede that most illegal immigrants aren’t criminals but are fleeing poverty and violence. Yet as we’ve pointed out, good intentions can’t always make up for a lack of income, skills and education:

    Imprisonment data reveals that third-generation Hispanic males are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated as non-Hispanic whites. Why is that? Many illegal immigrants are unskilled, poorly educated and reside in poverty-stricken, crime-ridden areas. This might expose their descendants to role models and behaviors that the grandchildren of legal migrants can’t begin to imagine.

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America’s crime-ridden inner cities offer a uniquely poor landing spot. Yet where else would the immigrants whom the panelists are so eager to welcome go? We might be more upbeat had our President followed through on his campaign promise to invest in and revitalize our poverty-stricken urban areas. But, gee, he didn’t. So until that “New Deal” really happens (we’re not holding our breath) encouraging immigrants to flee their own troubled neighborhoods to find relief in America seems at best a false promise, and at worst, foolish.

     But don’t take that from your blogger. Take it from a long-retired Fed who got (legally) dragged from South America to the U.S. when he was ten. His name – which he’s sorry to have changed – was “Julio.” Oops, that’s me! Oh, well…


8/8/20  Illegal crossing into the U.S. has “soared,” with the number of arrests more than doubling. Migrants say that a COVID-19 policy that quickly boots them out encourages them to promptly try again: “what’s encouraging us now is that because of the pandemic, they are letting us go quickly.” In March the CDC ordered the border patrol to bypass detention and immediately expel illegal crossers.

7/27/19 Title 8, section 1325 (a)(1) makes it a Federal crime for an alien to “enter or attempt to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers.” The next section, 1325 (a)(2), prohibits “elud[ing] examination or inspection by immigration officers.” According to the Ninth Circuit, many (a)(2) convictions in San Diego (the L.A. Times says “thousands”) are invalid because there was no “eluding,” so they should have been prosecuted under (a)(1). Justice Bybee concurred but noted that the Circuit’s prior decisions made proving (a)(1) too complicated.

7/13/19 In connection with her Presidential campaign, Senator Elizabeth Warren released a proposal that would, among other things, decriminalize illegal entry, making it a civil violation. Of the candidates, only Joe Biden has come out in favor of retaining illegal entry as a criminal offense.

7/9/19 Thanks to America’s switch to fentanyl, many Mexican farm families who cultivated opium poppies “so that your kids could go to school, so you could buy clothes, so that you could get something extra” face potential ruin. For some, the fix is to emigrate (illegally) to America.

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Ideology Trumps Reason     Sanctuary Cities, Sanctuary States I     Is Trump Right?

Immigration (special topic)

Posted 4/13/19


Inner-city violence calls for a lot more than cops. Is America up to the task?

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel. On April 3 the Chicago Sun-Times trumpeted some very good news for residents of the city’s embattled Tenth precinct. Officially known as the Ogden District, the area comprises two neighborhoods, North Lawndale and South Lawndale (aka “Little Village”), which have suffered from far more than their share of violence. But things may be getting better in the dangerous Tenth. Compared to the forty-three shootings and eight deaths that its denizens endured during the first quarter of 2018, this year’s toll of twenty-one shootings and three fatalities, an improvement of over fifty percent, is substantially steeper than Chicago’s citywide decline, from 461 shootings and 117 deaths in FQ 2018 to 391 shootings and 93 deaths this year.

     What’s behind the Tenth’s improvement? Most of the comments in the Sun-Times news piece credit the cops. According to a police captain, the gains are a product of “partnerships between police and community leaders, predictive analytics, the operational strategy…and the execution of that plan by the district’s officers.” A local alderman happily concurred. “They [officers] are out here with outdoor roll calls in the summer. They’re at block clubs. They’re doing the things that the community wants to see and the reason that the numbers are down is because of them.”

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     Time to celebrate? Maybe not, cautioned the Los Angeles Times. On the one hand, violence in Chicago has abated somewhat, with murders falling from 770 in 2016 to 660 in 2017 and 561 in 2018 (FBI counts are 765 in 2016 and 653 in 2017). More cops, a sharp increase in gun seizures, and the use of gunshot-detection sensors and data-driven analytics that predict where crime is likely to occur may have contributed to the drop. Chicago’s inner-city neighborhoods, though, experienced proportionately few benefits. In 2017, even as violence was down citywide, the Tenth nonetheless posted an appalling 44 homicides. Its murder rate of 28.3/100,000 pop. was considerably higher than Chicago’s (653 murders, pop. 2,706,171, rate 24.1), which was (and remains) in far worse shape than the relatively peaceful burg’s of Los Angeles (281 murders, pop. 4,007,147, rate 7.0) and New York City (292 murders, pop. 8,616,333, rate 3.4).

     And the Tenth wasn’t the worst example. Consider Chicago’s notorious Seventh police district, aka “Englewood.” In 2017 its homicide rate (48 murders, pop. 42,969, rate 111.7) was four times the Tenth’s. (In 2016, at the peak of the violence, the Seventh’s 86 homicides yielded a truly astronomical rate of 200.1.) At present the Seventh is again heading in the wrong direction, with ten killings during the first quarter of 2019 in comparison with eight last year.

     Of course, not all of Chicago is in dire straits. Consider, for example, its wealthy North Center area, pop. 30,493, with zero homicides in 2016 and 2017. (For the ten best neighborhoods in Chicago, click here).

     In “Location, Location, Location” we argued that it really is all about neighborhoods. Thanks to a surfeit of the poor, high-violence kind, the Windy City regularly produces more killings than Los Angeles and New York City combined. That’s not to say that Hollywoodland and Gotham should be popping corks. While their overall crime rates are consistently lower than Chicago’s, each has its own intractably violent areas as well. (For more about that click here and here.)

     So where does one go from here? First, we must abandon the notion that fine-tuning the police response or “cranking things up” can solve the problems created by crime and violence. Even the most sophisticated law enforcement strategies can only go so far. LAPD’s “Chronic Offender” program massaged data to identify supposedly dangerous characters, then placed officers on their tail. Unfortunately, the real world intruded, and seventy percent of the time the allegedly active evil-doers were nowhere to be found (p. 18). And there was another problem. As our posts (most recently, “Driven to Fail”) have warned, the interplay between poverty, race and ethnicity means that aggressive strategies such as stop-and-frisk inevitably produce buckets-full of “false positives” in minority-rich areas. That, as LAPD learned, can lead to a lot of anger and discord. It’s why the program recently collapsed.

     Well, how does one truly “fix” places like the Tenth, the Seventh, South L.A. and the Bronx? That’s what the renowned Urban Institute addressed in a landmark study, “Tackling Persistent Poverty in Distressed Urban Neighborhoods.” Its authors issued recommendations in five areas:

  • Education and child care: quality education, quality child care, enrichment opportunities, summertime activities
  • Crime and violence: less of both!
  • Personal and environmental health: physical and mental health services, affordable, quality food, safe play areas and public spaces
  • Neighborhood efficacy: supportive neighborhood environment, including caring for each other’s children, collective ability to lobby and secure external resources
  • Expanded economic opportunities: job training, apprenticeships, adult education, summer jobs, transportation to opportunities elsewhereMission LARGE

     Let’s focus on our favorite: economic opportunities. What would it take to improve the poor’s access to legitimate sources of income? In brief, an awful lot. Jobs-Plus is perhaps the best known national example. A  partnership between the Feds and major private foundations, the program provides employment opportunities, job training and financial incentives to residents of public housing projects in thirteen States. Its goal: to create “a culture of work.” Its cost: since 2015, $63 million from HUD alone. (Jobs-Plus initiatives are funded by multiple public and private sources. Click here for a current list.)

     We could go on, but the point’s been made. Truly reforming Chicago’s Tenth, or the Seventh, or South Los Angeles or the Bronx would require massive infusions of time, labor and capital. Such as our President “trump-eted” during his campaign (remember his promise of a “New Deal for black America?”). That nothing happened is no surprise. In addition to their cost and complexity, programs that seek to substantially improve the quality of life in our afflicted inner cities carry a lot of ideological baggage. Where, for example, should one draw the line between “help” and “handout”? It’s no surprise that despite well-meaning efforts such as LBJ’s “Great Society” the promises of urban renewal have always far outweighed their reality.

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     As our Strategy and Tactics posts demonstrate, Police Issues is definitely not of the mind that law enforcement can’t (or shouldn’t be) improved. Really, when compared to initiatives such as Jobs-Plus, fine-tuning the police seems like a cakewalk. That may explain why we habitually dump society’s problems on the cops. And why our grandkids’ grandkids will still be dealing with the poverty and violence of our inner cities.

     Unless, of course, climate change gets us first. Oops, sorry. Wrong pulpit!


8/10/20  In Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood officers shot and wounded an armed man whom they say fired at them. That led to an overnight cascade of looting, broken windows, fires and shootings in the city’s downtown. Thirteen officers suffered injuries and more than one-hundred arrests were made. Merchants criticize authorities for lacking “an effective strategy” to counter the repeated unrest.

5/5/20  Shootings in Los Angeles are down 14 percent, but the city has recorded 81 murders so far this year compared with 80 in 2019. Complaining that “despite social distancing and stay-at-home orders, gun violence rates remain persistently high in cities,” Mayor Eric Garcetti called for additional funding for anti-violence programs and gang intervention workers. His plea was joined by mayors from highly-impacted cities including Oakland and Baltimore.

5/3/20  Teens gathered for an early-morning outdoor party in Chicago’s violence-stricken Lawndale neighborhood. About 3:30 am a car drove by. According to a ShotSpotter, it sprayed “at least 14 rounds.” Five teens, ages 15-19, were wounded and are hospitalized in fair condition.

4/12/20 Who’s afraid of coronavirus? Gun violence in Chicago is reaching new heights during the outbreak. Last Tuesday, April 7, “the deadliest day from gunfire in nearly two years,” twenty-one were shot and seven were killed. Nine more were shot and two died in a five-hour period the next day. Then another two were killed and five were wounded in seven shootings between Friday evening and Saturday morning. It all happened in Chicago’s violence-plagued inner-city, including the notorious “Englewood” district.

2/14/20 Per Scholas, a national nonprofit, provides free IT training courses for unemployed or under-employed residents of low-income areas in twelve U.S. cities. It’s scheduled to train 750 adult students this year at its center in the Bronx. Students follow one of three tracks: the least demanding, network support tech, requires a high school diploma or GED. Graduates have gone on to jobs in large companies. A major partner, Barclay’s Bank, has hired 56 Per Scholas graduates

12/22/19 Thirteen were shot, two critically, at a party in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. The event was being held to honor a man fatally shot during a carjacking (police claim he was the perpetrator.) Still, police data indicates that citywide shootings and murders continue to fall.

12/4/19 Four years after the police killing of Laquan McDonald, an unarmed Black youth, led then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel to fire Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Chicago’s new Mayor, Lori Lightfoot fired the replacement Chief, Eddie Johnson, over “a series of ethical lapses.” Chief Johnson, who was found passed out in his car, had announced his retirement.

8/20/19 Most inner-city job-training programs haven’t proven out. But “Project Quest” may be different. According to a nine-year comparative study, its graduates had “the largest sustained earnings impacts we’ve ever seen in a work-force development program.” One of its advantages may be a “wraparound” component that has participants meet weekly to discuss their progress.

11/5/19 Chicago is reeling from yet more shootings in its supposedly improving “Little Village” area, where a seven-year old trick-or-treater dolled up as Minnie Mouse was critically wounded on Halloween night by a 15-year old gang member who opened fire on rivals. An adult was also struck.

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Should Police Treat the Whole Patient?     But is it Really Satan?     A Recipe for Disaster

Scapegoat (I)     Human Renewal     Two Sides of the Same Coin     Driven to Fail

Be Careful What You Brag About (I)  (II)     Location, Location, Location

Is Trump Right About the Inner Cities?     Too Much of a Good Thing?


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