Monday, February 9, 2009

Crips and Bloods in Beverly Hills?

Fact - Poverty and deprivation creates conditions for crime and violence in neighborhoods! Conclusion - We must take a targeted approach and tackle violence in poor, deprived neighborhoods!

Seems obvious. I'm not saying times of plenty are crime free. Some crimes may actually increase then - like theft when there is more around to steal. But overall, a worsening economy is bad news for crime and violence.

Simple. Right?


A California friend recently sent an LA Times article, "Crime and Economy Don't Tell the Whole Story" by James Q. Wilson (a renowned and well published scholar).

See the LA Times story

His conclusion? "Everyone knows that there is more crime in economically depressed inner-city neighborhoods than in affluent suburbs. That fact leads naturally to the assumption that if a community becomes more prosperous, crime rates will go down, and if income levels decline, crime rates go up...A lot of other factors affect the crime rate as well. It often goes up when the population gets younger, and when drug abuse becomes more common. Murder rates are profoundly influenced, at least in big cities, by gang activity."

So I have a question: How long do we wait for research to "tell" us what to do?

I've not compared the number of Crips or Bloods gang members living in Beverly Hills versus South Central LA. But I'll bet the south-centrals of the world lose every time! And my crime mapper friends will tell us, when you look at crime rates in cities, skid row looks much worse than elsewhere. (Apologies to South Central where I hear they've been working to make things better).

I love research and believe it can tell us plenty. But there is an ethical line in the sand. Can we really wait?

4 Replies so far - Add your comment

Anonymous said...

I have four children, all of who have graduated from, or are in University. They were not born with any more possibility as human beings than most children in the economically depressed inner-city.

The real difference is that they grew up in a neighborhood of lawyers, retired university professors, teachers, and business people. They grew up believing that they could achieve whatever they set out to do. There were few barriers to their succeeding providing they showed gumption.

My experience is that, with rare exceptions, children in the inner-city's deprived neighborhoods have little evidence that their lives can be any different than what they are. This is why gangs don't recruit in my neighborhood.

What disenfranchized people don't need is a gaggle of government professionals identifying and meeting their needs. This is a downward driving spiral into dependency. It robs people of their citizenship powers.

What can make a difference is ordinary folk like you and I building on a supporting the gifts and capacities of the people living in these neighborhoods. People don't need us to do things for them. My experience is what they need from us is to remove barriers that they can't remove for themselves. They will engage in building healthier neighborhoods for their children - one problem at a time.

GSaville said...

Of course the question is, How do we do that? How do we build and support the gifts of people in these neighbourhoods. Many criminologist, convinced research proves their case, aren't convinced that's where we should start. They'd rather tangle with the physical environment stopping opportunities or fund keen policing tactics. Some policy folks think the govt should fund literacy and job programs or parenting classes.

Of course none of that really get at the heart of it - which is probably why crime is so resiliant in such places. You are right; the disenfranchises DON'T need gaggles of authorities and experts identifying their needs. You are also right - engagement and "capacity building" at the local level IS the way forward.

My question is this: How exactly do those disenfranchised (the new immigrant struggling with a new culture or language; the single mother who cannot afford daycare; the elderly tied to fixed incomes and fearful of crime) do they GET engaged when their disengagement is at the root of why they suffer in the first place?

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you suffer from white liberal guilt.

GSaville said...

I suffer from very little except for fools and foolish comments with little value...of which that is one.