Posted 10/25/21


Violence besets poor neighborhoods. So why should the well-off care?

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel. “In 2020, the United States witnessed a nearly 30% increase in the murder rate – which is the largest increase in the 60 years that the FBI has been keeping records. And 77% of those homicides were committed with a firearm.” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco’s October 6th. address to the Major Cities Chiefs Association actually began with the grim recap of a recent series of shootings of Federal law enforcement officers, including the killing of a DEA agent.

     Violent crime did increase in 2o2o, and in many places quite dramatically. This table displays poverty, violent crime (murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault) and homicide data for eight cities featured in recent Police Issues essays: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, and Portland. They appear in order of percent of residents in poverty according to the 2019  ACS. Number of violent crimes and homicides in 2019 are from the UCR, and for 2020 they’re from the Crime Data Explorer (violence rates were calculated per 1,000 pop. and homicide rates per 100,000 pop.)

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Here’s the data in graphic form:

     While the magnitude of the increases varied from place to place, poorer places generally got the raw end of the deal: they often began with higher rates of violence, and increases – particularly, in homicide – were usually more pronounced:

     Elevated levels of violence persisted into 2021. For example:

  • Portland reported 40 homicides, 761 robberies and 6,671 assaults between January 1 and September 30, 2020. During the same period this year there were 63 homicides (a 58 percent increase), 816 robberies and 7,100 assaults. Police attribute the sharp increase in murder to budget cuts, a loss of officers and the disbandment of a specialized unit due to concerns about discriminatory policing.
  • New York City recorded 374 homicides, 9,980 robberies and 16,173 felony assaults from January 1 through October 10, 2020. During that period this year there were (again) 374 homicides, 9,976 robberies and 17,412 felony assaults.
  • Chicago reported  623 murders and 6,091 robberies from January 1 through October 13, 2020. During that period this year there were 639 murders and 5,760 robberies.
  • Los Angeles recorded 265 homicides, 6,233 robberies and 14,248 aggravated assaults from January 1 through October 9, 2020. This year’s corresponding toll came in at 307 homicides, 6,266 robberies and 15,548 aggravated assaults.

     But our concern isn’t about differences between cities. Instead, it’s about disparities within. Best we can tell, the middle-class neighborhood where my wife and I reside has been free of violent crime, or any property crime of consequence, for, um, thirty years. Many of our readers can probably boast likewise. To be sure, drive a couple miles one way or the other and things can get gloomy. And that’s within the same city. Say that a Martian criminologist lands on our block and asks whether violence and economic conditions are linked on the Earth, as they are on its planet. How would we respond?

     Well, we could refer to our lead table and cite U.S. poverty and homicide rates. Or, say, New York City’s. Job done! But either response would mislead. As essays in our Neighborhoods special section have long argued, the risk of victimization depends on where. In the end, neighborhoods – the places where we live – are what really “counts” (see, most recently, “The Usual Victims”).

     Consider the Big Apple. New York City’s Furman Center collects poverty and “serious” crime data for each of the city’s “community districts” (i.e., neighborhoods). Serious violent crimes include “most types of assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, murder (including non-negligent manslaughter), rape,

and robbery.” Both vary widely among the city’s 59 districts. Poverty ranges between 4.1 and 40.3 percent, while in 2020 “serious violent crime” went between 0.7 and 12.4 per thousand population. We used the Center’s data to generate the scattergram (each “dot” represents a community district) and its accompanying table. They indicate that within New York City, violence and poverty increase and decrease pretty much in sync. This relationship is confirmed by a sizeable “r” statistic (its value can range from zero, meaning no relationship between variables, to one, a lock-step association.)

     “Fix Those Neighborhoods!” described large disparities in poverty and violence within New York City and Los Angeles in 2020. We contrasted the per/100,000 murder rates of the Big Apple’s wealthy Upper East Side (pop. 220,000, poverty 7.2%, murder rate 0.5) and its struggling Brownsville district (pop. 86,000, poverty 29.4%, murder rate 29.1). We also compared affluent West Los Angeles (pop. 228,000, poverty 11.3%, murder rate 1.8) with the impoverished 77th. Street area (pop. 175,000, poverty 30.7%, murder rate 27.4).

     Those inequalities persisted into this year. Between January 1 and October 17, 2021, NYPD’s well-off 19th. precinct, which covers the Upper East Side, posted two killings (one more than last year), yielding a murder rate of 0.9/100,000. In contrast, the 73rd. precinct, which handles Brownsville, logged fourteen homicides. While that’s better than the twenty-two killings it recorded at that point in 2020, its murder rate, 16.3, was still eighteen times higher than its wealthy competitor’s.

     Not much changed in Los Angeles, either. LAPD’s been screaming bloody (murder) about the city’s 2021 increase in homicide, which is greatly burdening its beleaguered detectives. What the newspaper article didn’t mention is that West L.A. doesn’t need their help: as of October 16, none of its 228,000 residents have been murdered this year. Not one. Meanwhile the economically distraught 77th. Street area (pop. 175,000) posted forty-four killings, yielding a rate of 25.1.

     “Don’t Divest – Invest!” compared Portland’s ten most prosperous neighborhoods with the ten most stricken by poverty. Using Portland Police Bureau crime data for 2021 (Jan. 1 through September 30), and neighborhood population and poverty figures from Portland Monthly, we compared crimes against person rates between the five most prosperous neighborhoods and the five least. Check out that table on the left. As one would expect, poverty and crime lined up most convincingly

     We could go on, but the point’s obvious. In our country’s many poverty-stricken neighborhoods, things are harkening back to the violence-ridden years of the crack epidemic. So why hasn’t America embarked on that “Marshall PlanPolice Issues keeps yakking about? As we’ve repeatedly implored, “a concerted effort to provide poverty-stricken individuals and families with child care, tutoring, educational opportunities, language skills, job training, summer jobs, apprenticeships, health services and – yes – adequate housing could yield vast benefits.”

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     Last December John Jay’s The Crime Report actually published one of our rants. They even entitled it “Memo to Joe Biden”! Alas, your faithful blogger never heard from the White House. We recently deduced the reason. According to the very “woke” The New York Times, unless President Biden’s “social safety net” bill is substantially shrunk it will go nowhere. With that in mind, Senator Joe Manchin (D – W.Va.) offered an obvious fix: “Limit access to every program in the ambitious measure to only those Americans who need it most.” Makes sense, right? Not to Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill, who represents a prosperous area of New Jersey. Instead of limiting child care benefits to families that earn no more than twice a state’s median income, her recent amendment extended the proposed benefit to nearly everyone. Why? Because of an apparently widespread concern among “Blues” that unless the upper-crust gets its cut, even the “wokest” voters might defect to the “Reds”.

     Hmm. Anyone still up for that “Marshall Plan”? Nah, we didn’t think so.

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Memo to Joe Biden: Focus on Neighborhood Safety (The Crime Report, Dec. 7, 2020)


Special topics:  Neighborhoods

Full Stop Ahead     The Usual Victims     Don’t “Divest” – Invest!     But is it Really Satan?

Place Matters    Can the Urban Ship be Steered?     Fix Those Neighborhoods!

Posted 5/3/21


Cops can’t correct what most needs fixing

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel. It’s a heartbreaking sight, and no less so because we know how things turned out for the sixteen-year old.  Alas, little about Ma’Khia Bryant or her circumstances were likely known by the Columbus, Ohio officer who pulled up to the chaotic scene in response to a 9-1-1 call about someone aggressively wielding a knife. (For a video taken from across the street click here. For a stop-motion bodycam video click here.)

     Clearly, the cop had only moments to act. But as one might expect, he was promptly condemned. No less a figure than LeBron James quickly tweeted a sarcastic “YOU’RE NEXT #ACCOUNTABILITY.” Once body cam and bystander videos surfaced, though, their depiction of the speed at which events unfolded and the imminent threat to life somewhat muted the criticism. Taking the time to “de-escalate” could have been the same as doing nothing. Colleagues and citizens from across the racial spectrum have come to the star-crossed officer’s defense. Yet regardless of their (admittedly belated) support, consider how killing a young person must feel.

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     However justifiable, the shooting reignited chronic discontent. Only six years after Columbus resolved a DOJ patterns-and-practices inquiry into alleged police misconduct, its Mayor asked (and activists demanded) that the Feds launch another. We’re well aware that the present tenor is to blame poor outcomes on the cops, and only the cops. And we agree that there’s always something to gain by dispassionately analyzing their practices. We’ve done it ourselves. This time, though, let’s focus on something that’s beyond the power of even the most enlightened officers to change. We’re talking, of course, about place.

     We’ll start with Columbus. It has twenty-six regular ZIP codes. We collected their population and poverty rates from the Census, and computed the number of aggravated assaults using the LexisNexis community crime map, to which Columbus PD contributes. (2019 was chosen to avoid the influences of the pandemic.)

Check out the scattergram. Each ZIP code is represented by a dot. Note how poverty and aggravated assault (rate per 100,000 pop.) increase in nearly lock-step fashion. Their association, which yields a robust .79 “r” coefficient, reflects the powerful relationship between crime and economic conditions that we harp about in our Neighborhoods essays.

     To make the connection between poverty and violence even more evident we compared the five ZIP’s with the lowest aggravated assault rates with the five ZIP’s at the other end. Look at the their rates. Their contrast could hardly be greater. Ma’Khia Bryant lost her life in a different neighborhood, ZIP 43232. Its poverty and aggravated assault rates, which seem sizeable from an outsider’s perspective, fall about midway through the city’s distribution. But Ms. Bryant wasn’t raised there. Her mother lost custody of her four children long ago. About two years ago, after a stint with grandma didn’t work out, social services assigned Ms. Bryant and a younger sister to be fostered by a White couple. That’s where they were living when the tragedy happened.

     Minneapolis is another place that’s been long battered by poverty and episodes of policing gone wrong. Derek Chauvin isn’t the only MPD cop who’s been convicted of murder. Only two years ago then-MPD officer Mohammed Noor was found guilty of murdering a 9-1-1 caller whom he impulsively mistook as a threat. And there’s been some recent local competition. On Friday, April 11, as Chauvin’s trial closed its second week, a police officer employed by Brooklyn Center, an incorporated Minneapolis suburb of about 30,000, accidentally drew the wrong weapon. Although Kim Potter yelled “Taser” three times, the trigger she squeezed was that of her pistol. Daunte Wright, a Black 20-year old man, fell dead.

     Mr. Wright had been stopped for a license plate issue. But when officers tried to arrest him on a gun-related warrant, he bolted for his car. That’s when the 26-year year police veteran committed that rare but not unheard-of blunder. Honest mistake or not, the tragedy led Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar to insist that her colleagues pass the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.” (It seeks, among other things, to ban chokeholds and end qualified immunity for police.) Senator Klobuchar also offered some pointed remarks at Mr. Wright’s funeral. “True justice is not done as long as having expired tags means losing your life during a traffic stop,” she said.

     Ms. Potter and her chief both resigned. They were soon joined by the city manager. Instead of murder, though, the former cop was charged with 2nd. degree manslaughter. If convicted she faces “only” ten years.

     Let’s subject Minneapolis to the same looking-glass we used for Columbus. Minneapolis also contributes to the LexisNexis crime map. However, in 2019 it identified crime locations by neighborhood instead of ZIP code. There are eighty regular neighborhoods in the city. For each we obtained population and median household income data from the Statistical Atlas of the United States. We used the latter (/1000) instead of poverty rates. Here’s the scattergram:

Once again, the association between economic conditions and violence is crystal clear. As income increases aggravated assault rates literally plunge. (Thus the correlation statistic is negative, meaning that the “variables” move in opposite directions.) We also compared the five Minneapolis neighborhoods at both extremes of the aggravated-assault scale. Here are the results, with place names abbreviated:

Again, the link between poverty and violence is readily apparent. As we harped about in “Repeat After Us,” when it comes to assessing crime city names are meaningless. It’s really places that count.

     So what’s the takeaway? Given the vagaries of both officer and citizen temperament, counting on cops to de-escalate and do all the “right” things while working under the uncertain, often threatening conditions of the “real world” is a tall order. Think you can do better? Start off with inadequate resources and a lack of information. Add a heady portion of citizen non-compliance, substance abuse and personal issues. And by all means stir in some inappropriate behavior by colleagues and superiors who want to do things “their” way (remember, um, Chauvin?) Voila! You’ve cooked up the toxic brew that even well-meaning cops (and these are in the vast majority) consume each day. Enjoy!

     Law-abiding citizens who endure the everyday violence and gangsterism that accompanies poverty have been speaking out. In the aftermath of the police killing of Adam Toledo, a thirteen-year old resident of Chicago’s impoverished “Little Village” neighborhood (household median income $31.5K), a deeply-researched story in the Tribune featured the sentiments of residents who were fed up, and not just with the police:

  • Seventy-four year old sidewalk vendor: “We are tired of gang violence; it’s sad what happened with the young boy, but he had a gun with him and his friend had been shooting, so the officer responded to the threat.”
  • Thirty-eight year old man doing his laundry: “We can’t even go out safely because there are random shootings everywhere and you never know if a stray bullet might hit you.”
  • Fifty-nine year old grandmother (she tries to keep away from gang members and cops): “The only reason people are talking about (killings) now is that it was a police officer who shot and killed the kid.”

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     To be sure, the craft of policing can always improve. But poverty and the things that come with poverty can make even “routine” policing exasperating. As we recently noted in “Fix Those Neighborhoods!” and “Human Renewal,” making a real difference would require a concerted effort to provide needy areas with resources and services that might prevent the next Adam Toledo from running around with an armed gang-member at one in the morning. That calls for major investments in child care, tutoring, job training, apprenticeships, health care and housing. And yes, it would be expensive, and yes, residents of better-off areas might complain.

     But look at those faces. Ma’Khia Bryant, Adam Toledo and Daunte Wright were clearly troubled souls. Each could have used some quality social, educational and health supports far earlier in life. But here we are, in the supposedly enlightened twenty-first century, and we still ignore the profound, life-shattering consequences of being raised in poverty. And when cops dealing with these intractable issues misstep, as they sooner or later will, it’s once again time to levy discipline, crank up the rules and turn out those massive studies and reports.

     Sound familiar?


9/3/21  Former Minneapolis officer Kim Potter, who claims she inadvertently drew her gun instead of a Taser, now faces the additional charge of first-degree manslaughter for killing Daunte Wright. That move, which requires proof of “recklessness,” increases the possible penalty to fifteen years. Her prosecution also shifted to the State. But Potter’s lawyer insists that proof is lacking. “This is so clearly an accident.”

8/10/21  Two highly-regarded violence interrupters, Dante “Tante” Barksdale and Kenyell “Benny” Wilson, were murdered in Baltimore this year. Both worked in its long-standing “Safe Streets” project, which seeks to reduce violence among Black men in high-crime areas. Coppin State Professor Johnny Rice II recommends a “collective, collaborative approach that does not vilify the Black community or law-enforcement” yet offers, among other things, “enhanced protection” for vital street workers.

7/13/21  At a White House meeting with political leaders and police chiefs, President Biden urged a multi-pronged approach against crime. It would include a crackdown on rogue gun dealers, hiring more cops, and funding community policing, housing, mental health and job training programs. “Support young people to pick up a paycheck instead of a pistol,” he implored. Memphis police chief C.J. Davis agrees. Noting that “Black and Brown communities are being terrorized from gun violence,” he’s convinced that more than policing is needed. “We have to find balance. We can’t continue to arrest crime away.”

Similar  sentiments were voiced in a major Chicago Tribune editorial about the violence-beset city. Community members emphasized addressing “root causes” including “poverty and inequity, low employment opportunities in under-resourced neighborhoods, high dropout rates in education, and the long-standing tension between law enforcement and the community.” One, who warned that defunding police is “stupid,” urged that cops could best be helped by paying everyone who works “a living wage.”

6/10/21  Advice columnist Amy Dickinson fired things up with a column that encouraged a victim of plant theft to call the cops on the boys responsible. “I cannot believe that you suggested this homeowner should call the police!,” replied another reader. “That advice could get those boys killed!” In response, Amy acknowledged that “many Americans...have lost their faith in the police. I admit to underestimating the magnitude of how afraid many people are of the police, who are supposed to protect them.”

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Memo to Joe Biden: Focus on Neighborhood Safety (The Crime Report, Dec. 7, 2020)


Special topics:  Neighborhoods

Is the “Cure” Worse Than the “Disease”?     Fix Those Neighborhoods!     Gold Badges

Human Renewal     Repeat After Us:     A Not-so-Magnificent Obsession     Three Shootings

A Tragedy, Yes

Posted 2/22/21


Violent crime is reportedly way up. But do we all suffer equally?

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel. According to the the Los Angeles Times, 2020 was “a year like no other.” Murder, it breathlessly reported, hit “a decade high after years of sustained reductions,” and shootings soared nearly forty percent. But L.A.’s hardly alone. According to the Chicago Tribune, the toll in perennially lethal Cook County hit a historic high, with “more gun-related homicides in 2020 than any other year, surpassing the previous record set in 1994.” Even New York City, which habitually boasts about its low crime numbers, feels cause for alarm. A recent New York Times opinion piece, “The Homicide Spike is Real,” calls killings and shootings “the city’s second-biggest challenge” next to the pandemic. But when it comes to gunplay “the way forward is less clear, and the prospects for a better 2021 are much dimmer.”

     Check out the graph. Homicide in Chicago increased fifty-six percent in 2020, soaring from an already deplorable 492 killings to an eye-popping 769 (the per/100,000 rate jumped from 18.2 to 28.5). While perhaps less mind-bending, increases in Los Angeles (38 percent) and New York City (45 percent) were also pronounced. Indeed, violence surged in large cities and small.

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     So our first question is...why?

     Two major reasons have been offered: the pandemic, and police killings. These dreadful events have led to economic chaos and social unrest, impairing the functioning of the state and fracturing its connection with the citizens it ostensibly serves. Not only has the pandemic taken cops off the street, but their deployment’s been deeply affected as well. As the Washington Post noted, this “thinning” of ranks can have serious consequences:

    In many departments, police ranks were thinned significantly by the combined effect of officers being out sick and being assigned to manage unrest on the streets. And given the concerns about spreading the coronavirus, officers were going to fewer places and interacting with fewer people, allowing more opportunities for people to settle disputes themselves.

Chicago’s new police superintendent, David Brown, was brought in by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to deal with the chaos. He attributes much of the increase in violence, to “extended periods of heightened civil unrest and looting” that were sparked by George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. It’s not just about Mr. Floyd. Noted criminologist Richard Rosenfeld believes that our legacy of lethal police-citizen encounters has actually damaged the state’s moral authority:

    During a period of widespread intense protest against police violence, it’s fair to suppose that police legitimacy deteriorates, especially in those communities that have always had a fraught relationship with police. That simply widens the space for so-called street justice to take hold, and my own view is that is a part of what we are seeing.

     Considering just their reaction to COVID-19 constraints, it’s clear that some citizens have become less willing to comply. Eager to avoid conflict, and with fewer officers to spare, many agencies have severely pared back on enforcement. Aggressive, focused approaches such as “hot spots policing” and “stop-and-frisk” seem threatened with extinction. LAPD Captain Paul Vernon, who runs his agency’s Compstat unit, feels that this purposeful pulling back has reduced gang members’ fear of being caught and led to more shootings and killings. What’s more, some cops may be reacting to the “new normal” by purposely slowing down. According to the New York Times, that’s exactly what happened in the Big Apple. If so, it’s not a new phenomenon. Three years ago in “Police Slowdowns” we wrote about the protracted slowdown that followed the arrest and prosecution of a handful of Baltimore’s finest after the 2015 death of Freddie Gray. (Ditto, Chicago and Minneapolis.)

     Whatever its causes, the decline in proactivity has serious implications. In his recent paper, “Explaining the Recent Homicide Spikes in U.S. Cities,” Professor Paul G. Cassell proposed the “Minneapolis Effect”:

    Specifically, law enforcement agencies have been forced to divert resources from normal policing to patrolling demonstrations. And even as the anti-police protests have abated, police officers have scaled back on proactive or officer-initiated law enforcement, such as street stops and other forms of policing designed to prevent firearms crimes.

     Of course, it’s not just about policing. Folks have suffered from the closing of schools, parks and libraries. Chicago P.D. Sgt. Jermain Harris, who works with youths, offers his take on what happens when community supports disappear:

    You take away the businesses, all the pieces of society that generally have eyes out, and you are left with young people, and a lot of young people, who don’t have resources or that level of support if they are left on their own.

     Well, it all seems plausible enough. Yet your blogger, and probably most who skim through our essays, lives in a middle-class area that seems just as peaceful as before the madness began. Other than the officer who lives a few houses down, cops are hardly ever around, and their absence is thought unremarkable. So that brings us to the second question: who suffers most?

     LAPD Chief Michel Moore knows. He recently pointed out that in L.A., the increase of violence has mostly affected areas long beset by gangs and gunplay:

    Nearly all of the loss of life and shooting victims are centered in the Black and brown communities. The lack of jobs and supportive services, a sense of hopelessness, easy access to firearms and ineffective parts of the criminal justice system have created a perfect storm to undermine public safety gains built over the last decade.

Chief Moore is referring to the same poor neighborhoods whose chronic problems with crime and violence are the stock-in-trade of our Neighborhoods special section. Bottom line: it’s not about cities but about the places within cities where people live.  Check out this graph. As we noted in “Mission Impossible?” there are even some relatively safe spots in...Chicago! For instance, Rogers Park, Chicago PD District 24. Its 2020 murder rate (thru 12/27) was more than a third lower than the Windy City’s overall. Yet in downtrodden Englewood, Chicago’s P.D.’s 7th. District, the already sky-high 2019 rate soared seventy percent.

     In “Location, Location, Location” we mentioned that Los Angeles has a number of relatively safe spaces. Say, Westwood. Populated by about fifty thousand of the (mostly) well-to-do, the prosperous community suffered one murder in 2019 and none in 2020. Alas, most L.A. residents aren’t nearly as fortunate. Consider the chronically troubled Florence area (pop. 46,610) of South L.A. With ten killings in 2019 and ten in 2020, its murder rate wound up more than twice that of the city as a whole.

Conditions in New York city also “depend.” Contrast, for example, the affluent Upper East Side’s (pop. 225,914) zero murders in 2019 and one in 2020 with bedraggled Brownsville’s (pop. 84, 525) eleven killings in 2019 and twenty-five in 2020. To be sure, Brownsville seems a less threatening place than L.A.’s Florence district or Chicago’s Englewood. Yet its contrast to the rest of the city within which its borders lie seems equally pronounced. It’s as though there are two cities: one comprises Rogers Park, Westwood and the Upper East Side, and the other is made up of Englewood, Florence and Brownsville.

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     This graph brings it all together using 2020 data. (To save space, Englewood’s sky-high murder rate runs off the top.) It’s no news to our readers that economic conditions and their correlates – here we use number of residents with four-year degrees – are deeply related to crime and violence. So what can be done? Prior posts in our “Neighborhoods” section have rooted for comprehensive approaches that offer residents of low-income communities job training, tutoring, child care and other critical services.

     Grab a quick look at “Place Matters.” Whether it comes from “neighborhood revitalization” programs such as promoted by Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, or from that “Marshall Plan” we ceaselessly harp about, there’s no question – none – that a concerted effort to give needy neighborhoods a boost would greatly improve their socioeconomic health and reap fabulous human benefits. And, not-so-incidentally, keep their inhabitants from becoming the “usual victims” whose demise our posts persistently quantify.

     Violence is not an equal-opportunity threat. But of course we all knew that.


10/9/21  A detailed account of Chicago’s Humboldt Park shooting, and its aftermath, describes the struggle between Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who demands that participants be prosecuted, and Cook County Prosecutor Kim Foxx, who insists the evidence remains insufficient. While she articulates legal reasons for her reluctance, it’s thought that police misconduct and past wrongful convictions are playing a role.

10/5/21  In Chicago’s beset Humboldt Park neighborhood, two cars pull up to a house and exchange gunfire with its occupants. One person dies, others are wounded, and the cars flee. Police initially arrest all the participants. But not even those who were hurt talk. Although police saw part of what happened, officers aren’t certain who started the shootout, nor who truly fired in self-defense. Prosecutors reject the usual solution - to arrest everyone - and decline to file charges. That brings a heated objection from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is desperately searching for solutions to the violence that rocks her city.

9/28/21  According to the FBI’s new data release there were 21,570 murders in 2020. That produced a  rate of 6.5/100,000, 28.9 percent higher than 2019 (16,669 murders, rate 5.1) and the worst in at least twenty years. Aggravated assault also increased; its rate was up 11.7 percent. However, rape and robbery rates decreased 12.0 and 9.6 percent respectively. Property crime was also down; its rate decreased 8.1 percent. (Source: crime data annual reports/offenses known to law enforcement.)

9/20/21  A soul-stirring photo in the Washington Post depicts a serious-looking three-year old boy gesturing at the camera as he stands in front of a series of graves, a bottle of water in his hands. He’s visiting his father, who was shot and killed in January, and his uncle, whose life was claimed by gunfire in June. With 166 murders in 2019, 198 in 2020 and 153 as of Sept. 20 this year (versus 135 for this period last year) homicide in D.C. is reportedly “on pace to hit a 17-year high.”

9/7/21 “At least 66” persons were shot in Chicago during the Labor Day weekend, seven more than last year. Six were killed. Among them was a four-year old boy, who was struck as he sat in a chair getting his hair done. He and his parents were visiting from Louisiana. Police found 27 spent cartridges from a handgun and “mini rifle.” The shooting happened in Woodlawn, one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Its Third police district recorded 27 murders in 2020 and 47 through August 31st. this year.

8/28/21  It’s not just Chicago’s neighborhoods. Its expressways have been increasingly beset by car-to-car gunfire, leaving innocents wounded and dead. There have been 159 such attacks so far this year. There were 128 in 2020, 52 in 2019 and 43 in 2018. This “extension of the gun violence that has ravaged the city’s disinvested South and West sides” is being addressed with a $12.5 million program to install license plate readers. Police hope that will improve the solution rates, which are reportedly poor.

8/16/21  According to a Los Angeles Times analysis, the jump in homicides during the pandemic has disproportionately affected Blacks and Latinos. Comparing 18-month periods before and after January 2020, murders of Black persons increased 114 percent, from 151 to 192. Murders of Latinos increased 46 percent, from 182 to 266, and of Whites five percent, from 38 to 40. According to UCLA professor Jorja Leap, the pronounced disparity in victimization “speaks to the two Los Angeleses.”

8/13/21  In Chicago’s violent Englewood neighborhood, a volley of bullets penetrate a home. Two sixteen-year old youths are struck; one, Cordell Bass, is killed. His mother and three nephews, ages 2, 5 and 6, escape injury. Bass’s mother, who said her son was under “house arrest” for a gun-related incident, thinks that he was killed by the same person who wounded her niece’s boyfriend some months earlier.

8/2/21  New York City gang members backed by scooter escorts opened fire in a Latino neighborhood, wounding ten, including three rival gangsters. Meanwhile gunfire in Chicago killed three and wounded nineteen in a single “overnight.” Chicago PD posted 105 homicides in July. That’s about the same as the 107 recorded in July 2020, but far worse than the month’s tolls in 2019 (44) and 2018 (64).

7/29/21  Data from the University of Chicago Crime Lab suggests that “historical structural racism and economic deprivation” have contributed to a widening gap in rates of homicide and deaths from disease between Chicago neighborhoods. Differences in murder rates between the safest districts (Lincoln, Rogers Park, Jefferson Park and Town Hall) and most violent (Harrison, Englewood, Austin and Gresham) increased from 13 times in 1991 to twenty-six times in 2020. According to the Census, the most dangerous districts are predominantly Black.

7/26/21  According to Washington D.C, police, over forty percent of gunfire occurs in a beset region that comprises only two percent of the District. Crime scene technicians found nearly 2,800 bullet casings within a square-mile stretch of that area in three years. Killings are so commonplace that a local mentor stopped going to funerals and now works with young people in Virginia: “I’m tired of praying over a person in a casket that I played pee-wee football with.” In 2020 murders in D.C. “reached a 16-year high,” leading its Democratic mayor, Muriel E. Bowser, to declare “a public health crisis.”

7/20/21  In the wake of unremitting gun violence - 61 were shot, with ten killed, during the most recent weekend - Chicago police aren’t waiting for the Feds to combat gun trafficking. A fifty-officer anti-gun trafficking team was just placed on the street. Its mission is to go after “unscrupulous” gun dealers, straw buyers, and other sources of the guns that beset the city. And they beseech the public to help.

7/19/21  Four girls, ages 12, 13, 14 and 15 were wounded in a Chicago-drive by. A 19-year old woman and a 25-year old man were also struck by bullets, but no one died. Two hours later an 8-year old was wounded in an unrelated shooting. They were among the twenty-two wounded and two shot and killed in Chicago “from Saturday night” (July 17) “into Sunday” (July 18).

7/18/21  With 102 murders in Washington D.C. so far this year, same as in 2020 and a sixteen-year high, the Nation’s capital reels from the death of its latest victim, a six-year old girl who was gunned down in a drive-by that wounded five others, including her mother. Meanwhile the city announced a new program, Building Blocks DC, “that concentrates police and health programs on the 151 blocks where gun violence is most common.” That’s probably of little comfort to the fans who hurriedly fled Nationals Park yesterday when a game between the home-town team and the San Diego Padres was suspended after  vehicles exchanged gunfire near a stadium entrance, wounding three.

7/13/21  At a White House meeting with political leaders and police chiefs, President Biden urged a multi-pronged approach against crime. It would include a crackdown on rogue gun dealers, hiring more cops, and funding community policing, housing, mental health and job training programs. “Support young people to pick up a paycheck instead of a pistol,” he implored. Memphis police chief C.J. Davis agrees. Noting that “Black and Brown communities are being terrorized from gun violence,” he’s convinced that more than policing is needed. “We have to find balance. We can’t continue to arrest crime away.”

Similar  sentiments were voiced in a major Chicago Tribune editorial about the violence-beset city. Community members emphasized addressing “root causes” including “poverty and inequity, low employment opportunities in under-resourced neighborhoods, high dropout rates in education, and the long-standing tension between law enforcement and the community.” One, who warned that defunding police is “stupid,” urged that cops could best be helped by paying everyone who works “a living wage.”

7/7/21  Declaring a “gun violence emergency” that particularly besets “poor, Black and Latino communities,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged $139 million to fund jobs and deploy violence interrupters in inner-city neighborhoods. Ditto Los Angeles, where most of the burden also falls on poor neighborhoods. “There too many guns in too many hands,” says LAPD Cpt. Stacy Spell. “Ghost guns,” he noted, are proliferating. As of June officers have seized 661. That’s close to last year’s total haul of 813.

7/6/21  Shootings and killings have soared in Los Angeles and Chicago this year. Los Angeles reported  sixteen deaths by gunfire during the July 4th. weekend. Sixteen also died in Chicago, where a stunning ninety-five were shot. In violence-beset Minneapolis, a lawsuit filed by residents of high-crime areas led a judge to order that police substantially increase staffing to comply with the city Charter.

6/29/21  With 800 persons shot in New York City this year, the most since 2002, even vaunted Times Square is getting dangerous. One day after a tourist was shot, Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that officers will “flood” the landmark with officers so that visitors keep returning. “They have to be safe and they have to feel safe.” Meanwhile seventy-seven persons were shot in Chicago over the weekend; so far, seven have died. Six were shot in one incident; eleven were shot in another two hours later.

6/15/21  Major-city homicide rates surged by thirty percent in 2020. So far this year they’re up another twenty-four percent. Economic stressors, social unrest, more guns and fewer cops on the street get much of the blame. But the pandemic is credited with lowering rates of rape, robbery and theft, which are supposedly more matters of “opportunity.” Washington Post analysis.

6/12/21  A Chicago mother and her 14-year old son were about to relocate from the violence-ridden Lawndale neighborhood where the boy was having trouble with local toughs. But before they could move a shot-spotter alert brought police to a rear porch where the eight-grader lay dead from bullet wounds. He was one of twenty-two fatal gunshot victims under 17 this year; 141 have been shot.

6/8/21  During the June 4-7 weekend at least sixty persons were shot in Chicago, including eight in a single incident. Among the wounded were an 11-year old girl and a 15-year old boy. So far six have died. Police commissioner David Brown blamed this year’s lethal surge in gunplay on “gang cultures, revenge, retaliation and street justice.”

6/1/21  “It makes me angry because the crime they are seeing in Buckhead is the same crime we on the Southside have been dealing with for years.” That’s how an angry Atlantan reacted to a move by residents of a pricey residential area to form their own city because a recent spate of thefts and shootings have shattered Buckhead’s tranquility and made it feel just like one of Atlanta’s poor neighborhoods.

5/29/21  “Skyrocketing” violence has led Chicago Mayor Lightfoot and Chief Brown to implement “smart policing” strategies in sixteen high-crime neighborhoods. Police will provide extra resources for these areas and officers will coordinate their efforts with local groups and “violence interrupters.” Officers are strongly objecting to twelve-hour shifts and canceled days off, but with a 22 percent rise in homicides and nearly fifty persons shot last weekend alone, Chief Brown said there is little other choice.

5/26/21  An 86-year old resident of the violence-ridden Garfield Park area – it had the “highest homicide rate, lowest life expectancy” of any Chicago neighborhood in 2014 – is struggling to decide whether to leave her home of five decades. She was tending to her lawn when dozens of gunshots rang out, and one round grazed her foot. Her son has long urged the widowed grandma to move, but “everywhere I look there are memories; this is why I cherish the house.”

5/18/21  A “45-year old felon” has been charged with attempted murder after shooting and wounding two Chicago police officers who responded to reports of gunfire in the Lawndale neighborhood. They returned fire and shot Bruce Lua in the leg. Both officers have been released from the hospital. According to the Tribune, six Chicago officers have been shot in the last two months.

5/16/21  Soaring gunplay in Chicago’s poverty-stricken areas has left sixteen Chicago PD officers wounded during the past fifteen months. Two were shot early this morning, one critically. Their assailant, who opened fire for no explicable reason, was also wounded. That tragedy follows two days filled with gunfire, with five citizens dead and “at least fifteen” wounded.  In Los Angeles, “too many guns in too many hands” is cited as the reason why the city is experiencing a surge of violence, with 465 shootings and 115 murders thru May 4, 67 and 26 percent more than last year. New York City has also been beset by steep increases in shootings and murders. During the past month 170 citizens have been shot, the most during this period since 1997. Deaths by gunfire are also up, with 146 so far this year, compared to 115 in 2020.

4/24/21  Located in a neighborhood of “neglect” and “entrenched poverty,” a Knoxville high school has lost five students this year to gunfire. It started in January with the shooting death of a football player, and ended on April 12 with the police killing of a 17-year old who was wanted for domestic violence and reportedly fired at officers in a bathroom. During the confusion one officer reportedly wounded another.

4/11/21  A 21-year old man on probation for a gun crime opened fire in a violence-beset Chicago neighborhood as a vehicle passed by. Shot-spotter devices alerted police, and officers quickly appeared. The suspect bolted but was promptly arrested. His companion, 13-year old Adam Toledo, also ran off. He now had the gun. Officers say that the youth turned at them with the weapon, and they shot him dead.

3/21/21  Three Chicago officers have been shot within a week, two more since our last update six days ago. One, seriously wounded in the stomach, was off duty, sitting in his car at a traffic light. Two suspects are being sought. The other officer suffered a hand wound while responding to a call about gunshots. Her assailant was arrested. Chicago’s also beset by carjackings, many by small groups of thugs. There have been 370 so far this year, the most in at least two decades.

3/15/21  On September 14 gunfire broke out at a “pop-up” party in Chicago’s bedraggled South Side. By the time it was done fifteen were wounded and a 30-year old woman and a 39-year old man lay dead. Officers found four pistols and attribute the incident to gangs. Hours later a gunman drove by a police station in the South Side and opened fire, wounding a sergeant who had just stepped outside.

3/9/21  Lethal gunplay is way up in Los Angeles, with 64 murders and 267 shootings thru March 2 compared with 46 murders and 111 shootings during that period last year. While many killings continue to be attributed to gangs, armed robberies are taking place throughout the city. And in what an LAPD assistant chief called a “disturbing trend,” holdup victims are increasingly being shot.

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Memo to Joe Biden: Focus on Neighborhood Safety (The Crime Report, Dec. 7, 2020)


Special topics:  Is Crime Up or Down?     Neighborhoods

“Woke” up, America!     An American Tragedy     Regulate. Don’t Obfuscate!

Is the “Cure” Worse Than the “Disease”?     Four Weeks, Six Massacres     Punishment Isn’t a Cop’s Job

Should Police Treat the Whole Patient?     Don’t Divest – Invest!     Place Matters

Turning Cops Into Liars     Mission Impossible?     Repeat After Us     Police Slowdowns (I)  (II)

Be Careful  (I)  (II)     Location, Location, Location