Crime time revisited
Over the years I've written a lot about crime and policing because for many years it was (and still is) a problem. For example, a bunch of pieces mostly from 2006 were in response to crime problems in DC and Philadelphia.
-- Crime time
-- Crime time #4
-- Crime Time #7
-- Crime Time 2008
I am a big fan of the work by Professor Elijah Anderson (Streetwise, Code of the Streets), the concepts behind "Broken Windows" policing (although I agree that the way many police departments interpret the concept goes far beyond the idea, and is more focused on arrests) (original 1982 "Broken Windows" article from The Atlantic), and approaches by David Kennedy which were used in Boston to such great effect (see Crime Time #7 for citations).
I moved to the city in September 1987, just as the "crack epidemic" was peaking, and as it happened I moved to a place (4th and I Streets NE) which was just a few blocks away from a major drug distribution area. So I lived in an area of the city where dozens of people were murdered over a few year period. .
Living that close to that level of violence, gives you a different perspective on crime, even with upticks, because today the number of murders in the city is one quarter or less of what it was at its peak. And in general, the level of crime is significantly reduced from what it was--and this is a fact more generally nationwide, even if we don't exactly know why this is the case.
Still, blog commenter charlie frequently makes the point that public safety is a key issue in terms of urban revitalization and that crime reduction from the city's peak has been key to the city's more recent increase in population ("Census Bureau: DC keeps growing, albeit at slower pace," Post).
Even so, while I empathize and of course, even one crime is too many, it is hard for me to take seriously claims by newer residents that things are out of control. (It's not unlike how people equate having a night time liquor license to the equivalent of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, which if you've ever been there, you know that it is impossible for there to be the equivalent of that level of "anything goes.")
I remember once going to my house in 1990 and driving on the 500 block of I Street NE where 5th St. was closed at either end because of unrelated murders at H and K Streets...
From "Spate of gun violence in D.C. continues" in today's Post:
[Mayor-elect] Bowser is getting an earful on crime. Scott DeGraw, who has lived in Petworth for eight years, wrote to her last week after a series of shootings and funfire struck the Northwest Washington neighborhood. ... 'The crime has never been so constant, or so violent, despite whatever statistics you like to point to the contrary.'Of course, Mr. DeGraw is wrong. Crime in DC is significantly reduced compared to peak years. Many of the crime spates are "pattern crimes" that are repeated by criminals until they are caught (e.g., the Post has a piece today about a guy nabbed for carjacking who had a propensity to rob convenience stores, 7-11s in particular).
My old joke, since most murders occur between people who know each other -- "to protect yourself from murder, just don't have any friends" -- seems apt, although the reality is that murder, while it attracts public attention, doesn't affect the average citizen very much.
And a lot of the increase in nonviolent crime---thefts from auto etc.--are the result of complacency and people not being cautious.
(E.g., two of my old rules, "don't buy gas at night in the city", "don't use ATMs at night in the city," I still practice.)
Chicago Tribune graphic (truncated from the original).
In preparation for a longer piece, I have been looking at special reporting initiatives by the Chicago Tribune ("Plan of Chicago") and the Dallas Morning News ("Future Dallas") on improving their respective cities.
Crime and public safety is an issue ("Curb crime. Save Chicago." and "How Chicago can revive its troubled neighborhoods," CT; "DPD has evolved with more officers on streets, more technology and more contact with community advocates," DMN) in those cities, in Chicago particularly, which has one of the nation's worst murder rates, which as pointed out in an excellent Post article from over the summer ("Chicago Soul") is in part the fallout or unintended consequences from tearing down public housing and redistributing residents across the city, upending "turfs."
I don't know how we can deal with every crime because at some level it will never be able to be completely eradicated, although I do believe that judicious Broken Windows strategies, people not doing stupid stuff that puts them at risk, as well as focusing on addressing poverty in substantive ways can make a difference.
But there is a lot that can be done.
More recently, pieces such as these made the point that the city could do a better job with adopting more systematic crime eradication practices:
-- Planning applied to crime reduction
-- Crime prevention through environmental design and repeated burglaries at the Naylor Gardens apartment complex
-- Suburban building forms in the center city--Does this contribute to crime?