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March 4, 2014 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Earlier this year Tracy Halvorsen wrote an article called Baltimore City, You're Breaking my Heart. It was received with...uh, mixed results. Now Andy, from the blog B'more Connected has looked at the article from the point of view of statistics. "I think nearly everybody can agree with the basic premise suggested by Halvorsen’s article. I will paraphrase that premise as: It is tragic and frustrating when our neighbors, friends, or coworkers are the victims of violent crimes. Violent crime is too frequent in Baltimore. Something needs to be done to decrease that crime. Beyond that, I think we see Baltimore differently."
posted by josher71 (59 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'll just add this response from Lawrence Lanahan, producer of the fantasic radio series The Lines Between Us.
posted by HumanComplex at 10:32 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


That last article is really neat. It breaks stuff out in just an excellent way (and also uses words to explain the graphs, which is good because I find it really hard to get information from graphs) and I particularly liked the way it built to the final argument of how "diversity" can be used as an anti-black rhetoric when it means undervaluing majority-black spaces and over-valuing majority white/substantially white spaces. That's really very smart, and it's a good reminder to say what we mean - I remember back in the nineties, a lot of people used "diversity" and "multiculturalism" with very good intent, to mean "not white-led"/"not white-dominated", but because we did not clearly say what we meant, it was very easy for "diversity" and "multiculturalism" to be turned around to attack people-of-color-led and people-of-color dominant places and organizations since their "diversity" did not privilege white people.
posted by Frowner at 10:43 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


I'm glad I didn't encounter the original article until now, with these great responses already available to tamp down my anger...especially the last one, which is really, really interesting.
posted by advil at 10:52 AM on March 4


Can you call it a response when it totally fails to respond to the subject of the actual article? Halvorsen's article was about "I like a lot of things in Baltimore, but the crime is so bad that I, like so many people, are fleeing." Andy's response used a lot of charts to prove that most of the things the author likes are things white people like, which is not proving much other than that the white author likes white people things. Which is just not particularly earth-shattering, or even interesting.

But Andy keeps pretending he's demolished the original article while he elaborately and deliberately fails to engage with the crime discussion which is WHAT THE ARTICLE IS ABOUT. This is how liberals lost credibility in urban planning, and urban politics in general. The po-faced refusal to engage in discussions of crime, and the eagerness to divert to the subject of race, leaves city residents feeling that these statisticians have nothing to offer to people who simply want to live their lives, whatever their race. This article is the problem.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:12 AM on March 4 [11 favorites]


while he elaborately and deliberately fails to engage with the crime discussion which is WHAT THE ARTICLE IS ABOUT.

I really like this quote from the response piece linked in the first comment: "Crime is not the “elephant in the room.” It’s all anyone talks about here. The elephant in the room is inequality."
posted by advil at 11:19 AM on March 4 [13 favorites]


Halvorsen's article made people mad because the crime issue is talked about all over the place and has been a fact of life for huge swaths of Baltimore for a long time. It seems to now only be a crisis to her since it is no affecting her in a white neighborhood.

Everyone wants to live their lives regardless of race, so I can see how this article rubbed people the wrong way.
posted by josher71 at 11:25 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


It's an interesting original article. The responses seem more concerned with proving their authors' progressive bona fides than in dealing with her concerns on their own terms. Some of the responses amount to suggesting that Halvorsen expressing concern about crime amounts to her complaining about black people, which she's clearly not doing.

I wonder if Americans realize just how violent their cities are, and just how out of the ordinary that level of violence is in the western world. Baltimore had a murder rate of 34.9/100k in 2012. Toronto's was 1.59/100k in 2011. I'm reminded of why, if I lived in some parts of the United States, I would strongly support the right to own a gun in self-defence. That experience of being surrounded by violence is so alien to me.
posted by Dasein at 11:26 AM on March 4 [7 favorites]


In the last piece, by Andy, he is correctly noting that race is hidden, between the lines in the original piece, but I think what's also between the lines is income/class/status. The overlap between race and income can be substantial and I hope part 2 of Andy's article sheds some light on that relationship in Baltimore.
posted by ashworth at 11:26 AM on March 4


I really don't like the maudlin, breathless tone of Halvorsen's piece, but the responses aren't great. Anyone who lives here is allowed to not like the crime. So she could afford to leave, so what? So could I. The point is, I don't want to.

Andy's point that things that while, middle-class people might like about Baltimore could be different than what other people like is a good one, but, I don't understand how it's really a response. Yeah, for me, the problem isn't finding affordable housing in a safe part of the city. Then again, it could be as crime escalates. Saying, "well now you just have to deal with what everyone else does" isn't really a constructive response. I try to help my community as much as I can, but I really do pay double the property tax I would in any of the surrounding counties. You might say that's a nice problem to have- and it is!- but that's the money that's going to fix the city. Regardless of what you think the solution is, it's going to cost money. I don't need any special pats on the back for paying taxes, but I really do count that as at least part of "doing my part" when I really could live somewhere else. I'm not, as long as I feel reasonably safe, but attracting homebuyers really does seem to be at least part of the solution here*, gentrifcation concerns are not.

*Repealing the law that puts city annexation up to a plebiscite, so the city can annex well to do areas that are economically linked would be a big part too, but I don't see that happening.
posted by spaltavian at 11:29 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Baltimore is the way it is because when the factories closed, the drug trade was all that was left. This isn't just Baltimore, this is any rust-belt city or manufacturing city that had it's jobs moved overseas in the interest of cheaper, union-free labor.

Pay all the taxes you want, Tracy, but it won't reverse the wrongs of NAFTA or end the drug prohibition. I think if you view labor as nothing but an expense, move jobs away, leave a significant portion of your city's population with no sense of purpose or belonging - then there will always be a cycle of addiction and crime. This is capitalism's fault, not Baltimore's.
posted by windbox at 11:31 AM on March 4 [5 favorites]


Also, this:

What breaks my heart is when someone acknowledges the sadness of the death of a white woman, but does not acknowledge the sadness of the bleak lives of 2 young black men.

Come on. Yes, addressing what drives people to crime is something we need to take seriously, but where the hell is this supposed need for a one-to-one ratio in a personal take on living in the city come from? I'm generally not going to express empathy for the victim of a brutal murder and the murderes in the same breath. People being murdered in their homes is scary, regardless of race, and their life become saddest when they stole someone else's.

They didn't sell drugs to make cash, they staked out a woman (one of the suspects robbed her before) and then murdered her because she foolishly was in her own home when they robbed it. What drove them to do it is a reasonable question. Asking me to ritually express my sadness for them along and at the same time as their victim, really, really pisses me off.

windbox: Pay all the taxes you want, Tracy, but it won't reverse the wrongs of NAFTA or end the drug prohibition. I think if you view labor as nothing but an expense, move jobs away, leave a significant portion of your city's population with no sense of purpose or belonging - then there will always be a cycle of addiction and crime. This is capitalism's fault, not Baltimore's.

Yeah, but it's not Tracy's fault either, and paying taxes is what she can do. If I could bring Bethlehem Steel back and legalize drugs, I would.
posted by spaltavian at 11:37 AM on March 4 [5 favorites]


Pay all the taxes you want, Tracy, but it won't reverse the wrongs of NAFTA or end the drug prohibition.

You tell her! I bet she feels silly about single-handedly establishing NAFTA and starting the drug war now.
posted by yoink at 11:41 AM on March 4 [11 favorites]


That original piece is recycling the same woe-is-Baltimore stuff that I remember from when my mom lived there in the early 90s, even down to "white people notice crime, leave city, film at 11" kind of framing.
posted by rtha at 11:42 AM on March 4


She's afraid... People who are afraid will tend to seek the recognizable, the comforting. It doesn't make it right, any more that it makes sense to be afraid in the first place.

In her telling, she's afraid because her neighbors are being attacked and/or murdered. If it happened to them, it can happen to her. A person of a darker complexion, with an urban manner of dress and a perceived manner of swagger or stance is a potential criminal... a "villain" to be carefully and surreptitiously studied while on high alert, until a tell is given that they meet a known condition of "normal:

A morning routine: Oh, a newspaper and coffee? whew...
A recognizable face: Oh, it's my neighbor in a winter coat. whew...
Or just something, anything to contradict the fear: Did he just say "I love you too, sweetie?" whew....

My family moved to NYC in 1986, and I grew up wandering most of the city as an aimless latch-key kid during the 90s.

Despite that, or perhaps because of that, I get nervous around large groups of unfamiliar black male teens. Not a "Ama go home enna get mah gun!" nervous, but a heightened awareness, a study of body language, and... unfortunately, an unbidden judgement.

I don't necessarily like it about me, but I've wasted enough of my life trying to lock up that sentiment. Today, I acknowledge its fallacy and let it wash through me. If I've made some unconscious decision to go to Defcon 3 every time 10 black kids go running by me, that's my own thing to deal with. I know I wouldn't want to be judged solely by the color of my skin or the manner of my dress, but it's like an emotional sneeze. Alone, unfamiliar neighborhood, nighttime, 3 black males in hooded sweatshirts walking towards me? Yeah. Count me nervous.

The lofty spiritual goal is to see all as individuals, to be as color blind as a toddler, to only judge those on their actions instead of an irrational fear of a potential action. Hopefully, maybe I'll get there one day, but I must also be honest with myself. I've wasted too much time slamming others for their own racist-ish behavior trying to make up for my own.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:44 AM on March 4 [4 favorites]


Pay all the taxes you want, Tracy, but it won't reverse the wrongs of NAFTA or end the drug prohibition.

Oh, FFS. Throwing a bunch of Mexican factory workers out of work isn't going to bring jobs to a black underclass in Baltimore. Neither is legalizing drugs, which will actually take away income from drug dealers and give it to corporations.
posted by Dasein at 11:44 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


gentrification concerns are not

Just realized I typed "are". I intended "or" a different meaning all together.

josher71: Halvorsen's article made people mad because the crime issue is talked about all over the place and has been a fact of life for huge swaths of Baltimore for a long time. It seems to now only be a crisis to her since it is no affecting her in a white neighborhood.

Yes, that's completely on the mark. I get that and agree, but the responses seem to slide more into the "how dare she" territory, or coming just a hair from calling her a racist, which I don't think is fair or constructive.
posted by spaltavian at 11:47 AM on March 4


I wonder if Americans realize just how violent their cities are, and just how out of the ordinary that level of violence is in the western world. Baltimore had a murder rate of 34.9/100k in 2012. Toronto's was 1.59 in 2011.

There is extreme variation depending on the city. New York is now 5.1/100k (the lowest since records begin in 1963.) Even crime in Baltimore has been steadily going down for years, but it is still way above the national average. Collectively, the murder rate in the U.S. is the lowest in half a century.
posted by gwint at 11:51 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Even crime in Baltimore has been steadily going down for years, but it is still way above the national average

That's a little out of date. In 2013, the murder rate in Baltimore defied the trend both nationally and locally and went up.
posted by yoink at 11:57 AM on March 4


That original piece is recycling the same woe-is-Baltimore stuff that I remember from when my mom lived there in the early 90s, even down to "white people notice crime, leave city, film at 11" kind of framing.

But the difference is that there is much, much less murder and violent crime in Baltimore than there was in the early 1990s, when I lived there. And yet this is presented as if a crime wave has suddenly rocked a formerly peaceful city.
posted by escabeche at 11:58 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


And yet this is presented as if a crime wave has suddenly rocked a formerly peaceful city.

I don't see that in the article. I see someone who loves a lot about Baltimore, but is growing weary of the constant fear of crime that pervades everyday life there.
posted by Dasein at 12:03 PM on March 4


What breaks my heart is when someone acknowledges the sadness of the death of a white woman, but does not acknowledge the sadness of the bleak lives of 2 young black men.

This may be the WHAT ABOUT THE MENZiest line of all time.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:08 PM on March 4


this is presented as if a crime wave has suddenly rocked a formerly peaceful city

I don't see her saying it's a new thing, just that it's an all-pervasive thing. And the stats really are shockingly higher than the vast majority of other US cities. I'm sure they're the product of all kinds of massive social forces and complexly embedded histories, but I'm not sure how much comfort that is supposed to provide to any given resident of the city. I'm also not sure what moral obligation any individual who does have the means to move somewhere else is under to stay put. If your city were a staggeringly more violent place than it is and you had the option of moving would you consider yourself honor bound to stay and try to work to make the city better? If so, why aren't we under a moral obligation to move to Baltimore and try to make it better? How long do you have to be resident before the moral obligation to stay kicks in?
posted by yoink at 12:11 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I used to think openly expressing unhappiness with crime in one's city was somehow racist and inappropriate, and then in the early 90s some of our black neighbors moved to the suburbs to get away from the crime and put their kids in what they hoped would be better schools. There'd been a murder on our block and there was a crack house around the corner. They didn't want to live and raise their kids in that environment. I couldn't blame them. My mom would have moved out of that neighborhood too if we'd had the money then. I don't see that complaining about crime and demanding that elected officials do something is so terrible. I also don't see why attacking this woman does anything for the black residents of Baltimore, who presumably also want safer neighborhoods.
posted by Area Man at 12:42 PM on March 4 [4 favorites]


Is it not legal for law abiding citizens to arm themselves in Baltimore? Do people who oppose gun ownership still believe it isn't fair and just to own one in these circumstances? Wouldn't that solve the problem of crime in cities like Baltimore?
posted by trol at 12:43 PM on March 4


trol: Wouldn't that solve the problem of crime in cities like Baltimore?

No.
posted by spaltavian at 12:45 PM on March 4 [13 favorites]


trol: Wouldn't that solve the problem of crime in cities like Baltimore?

Not even close.
posted by josher71 at 12:47 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Is it not legal for law abiding citizens to arm themselves in Baltimore? Do people who oppose gun ownership still believe it isn't fair and just to own one in these circumstances? Wouldn't that solve the problem of crime in cities like Baltimore?

Yes

No idea, I support gun ownership

No. Statistically self-defense gun owners don't really stop crime. Friends who I know from Oakland that have been mugged usually can't remember anything that happened because they were knocked unconscious from behind and/or ended up in the hospital.
posted by wcfields at 12:48 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Even within Baltimore there's huge variation in crime rates. There's parts of the city that are practically crime free and there are others that have tremendous amounts of violent crime. Just generally speaking though, the violent crime is contained in areas that are poor and predominantly black*. (Baltimore has a few poor majority white neighborhoods that also have high crime rates, but they're not the norm.)

I think the thing that gets tiresome for people who have lived here a while is that the only time the violence gets any notice is when its directed at someone who isn't part of the drug trade, or when it happens in one of the gentrified neighborhoods. It's inevitably fresh out of college, upper middle class white people threatening to leave, but we never had any expectation that they would stay anyway.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 1:02 PM on March 4 [4 favorites]


[Folks, please take it down a notch.]
posted by cortex at 1:05 PM on March 4


Is it not legal for law abiding citizens to arm themselves in Baltimore?

Depends on what you mean by "arm themselves". It's extremely difficult to get a permit to carry a gun in Maryland. But honestly the only people I've heard complaining about not being able to carry a gun are people from the counties who never come downtown except to the stadium complex/harbor area.

The only person I know that actually carries a gun runs a vending machine business and is constantly ferrying around cash when he empties the machines.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 1:09 PM on March 4


To elaborate, carrying a gun probably wouldn't do much to reduce violent crime because so much of that violence is confined to the drug trade. Violent felons may need protection from violent felons, but they're mostly unconcerned with whether they're carrying legally or not.

There's certainly muggings, but most of the street robberies I hear about start with either being hit from behind or having someone flash a gun at them. At that point your choices are pretty much just run or give it up.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 1:20 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Is it not legal for law abiding citizens to arm themselves in Baltimore? Do people who oppose gun ownership still believe it isn't fair and just to own one in these circumstances? Wouldn't that solve the problem of crime in cities like Baltimore?

I live in Washington, D.C., a city with its own plague of violence.

In 2008, it became legal - for the first time in almost 40 years - to own a own a handgun. We still have a lot murders.

We're a beneficiary of the overall national decline in violent crime, but - in talking to friends and neighbors, and in terms of the statistics - it doesn't feel like more guns have changed anything.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:23 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


We tend to care more about people we personally know. I don't know why this surprises anyone, and I don't know why it makes anyone a racist. Jump west two miles and ask a random person on the street if they care - really care - that Halvorsen's neighbor was murdered. Would any of us expect the answer to be an immediate and impassioned "yes"?

More guns aren't going to do anything to scratch the economic and social toxicity that created this problem to begin with. The criminals already have guns, they have more experience using them than you do, and trying to draw a weapon during a violent crime makes it much more likely that you're going to get yourself killed. It's a canard. It doesn't fix or even ameliorate the problem.

Decades of public works projects and government-funded mass job creation probably wouldn't be enough either, although they would damn well help. Baltimore certainly has enough broken infrastructure to support a generational WPA program and lift people out of this misery.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:24 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


This country needs to face the fact that when it talks about crime, it only discusses it in relationship to middle/upper class people. Crime, when spoken about by privileged people in relation to black and latino inner city communities, is coded classism/racism. When the only solutions offered are moar Police, moar prisons, moar surveillance cameras, moar SWAT teams etc. NOTHING will change. Voting for tough on crime policies so far has = more people in prison, more broken homes, more broken lives, none of which have actually reduced the underlying causes of crime, in fact I'd argue these policies cultivate more crime. We live in an unequal, and still very classist/racist society that figures it's easier to invest in Prisons and police (and blame the victims discarded by the system), than in education and healthy communities. IMO - of course.
posted by nikoniko at 1:29 PM on March 4 [4 favorites]


Nobody is saying that she doesn't have a right to be upset about crime. However, she does more than simply act upset, she also proposes solutions (my emphasis):

"All I know is when there are more police, there is less crime. When people get arrested for littering or loitering or being publicly intoxicated, they go do that shit somewhere else.”

From her perspective, it sounds like she doesn't understand how anybody could possibly have a problem with increasing the number of police and cracking down on minor transgressions. However, for one thing, this is exactly the reasoning that led to the creation of the stop-and-frisk policy in New York City. And this is even without getting into what "somewhere else" means in a city as segregated as Baltimore (or St. Louis, or...), a point this response raises.

The reason these solutions need to be understood in the context of race is because otherwise they can end up disproportionately benefiting white communities and actively hurting black communities. We can't make sure policies are non-racist by just never discussing race.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:34 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


We live in an unequal, and still very classist/racist society that figures it's easier to invest in Prisons and police

It's not just "figuring", but calculated profiteering that drives these policies. Prisons and police forces are huge profit centers.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:36 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


This may be the WHAT ABOUT THE MENZiest line of all time.

No it's not. I don't agree with the sentiment either, but your outrage is misplaced. If anything it's "what about the poor/non-privileged/non-white"
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:37 PM on March 4


The Knotted Line offers an interactive and very informative look at the history of prisons in this country.
posted by nikoniko at 1:38 PM on March 4


She's not advocating stop and frisk, she's advocating a broken-windows approach to crime prevention. In combination with a number of other things, that approach produced major results in New York City. And more police walking the beat is an essential ingredient in that approach.
posted by Dasein at 1:49 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


The broken-windows approach is exactly what led to the instantiation of stop and frisk. And whether or not broken-windows was responsible for the downturn in violent crime in NYC is at best controversial.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:04 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


> She's not advocating stop and frisk, she's advocating a broken-windows approach to crime prevention. In combination with a number of other things, that approach produced major results in New York City. And more police walking the beat is an essential ingredient in that approach.

First of all, whether the broken-windows approach deserves to be credited for NYC's turnaround is a question that we could seriously derail this thread over.

Secondly, more police doesn't just happen. Putting more police on the street requires either (a) hiring more police, in which case you need to pay them, and that money has to come from somewhere; or (b) shuffling existing police around in a way that necessarily hurts areas like investigation.

Stop-and-frisk doesn't exist in a vacuum. As you realize when you read Village Voice's obsessive coverage, stop-and-frisk in NYC happened because the NYPD had a mandate to make the crime stats look good even as they were being asked to do more with less. So their response was to go on the offensive — to bear-hug the receivers five yards from scrimmage so that they couldn't get beaten deep.

If I were in her position, I'm sure I'd be desperate enough to say "just put more cops on the street" as if it were all just that easy. And it doesn't bother me that she's said that. But people now want to have the deeper discussion.
posted by savetheclocktower at 2:09 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the helpful comments on gun ownership not being a solution. Before someone beat me to the punch, I was going to bring up NYC's success (a place I have lived in for years and frequent often). I can take a stroll practically at any time of the night on any street in Manhattan (village, soho, ofcourse timesquare, upper east side, upper west side, midtown, even the seedy streets around penn station and 8th ave and higher in mid to upper 40s). I mean, the place is just safe, at all hours of day and night. Why is that not an option?
posted by trol at 3:02 PM on March 4


I'm confused: why is what not an option, exactly? I think everyone in Baltimore would love to feel safe at any time of the night.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:13 PM on March 4


Why is that not an option?

This is a derail, but I don't think NYC's problems were solved by fulling arming the population.
posted by josher71 at 3:18 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the helpful comments on gun ownership not being a solution.

It is very difficult to get a carry permit if you are a NYC resident. Why are you under the impression that that is what brought crime levels there down?
posted by rtha at 3:21 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


trol, in a thread where people are trying to point to inequality as a source for the problems, making it damn near impossible for anyone who isn't at least middle class to live there isn't an option for most places outside of Manhattan.
posted by crashlanding at 3:22 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Apologies for the confusion, I was referring to police tactics in New York City and not guns. Reading my comment again, I can see I did not make the transition (at all!!).
posted by trol at 4:30 PM on March 4


I don't see her saying it's a new thing, just that it's an all-pervasive thing.

Yeah, that's a good point, sorry -- I guess what I was reacting to is that when I lived there, there was much more murder and much more violent crime and it didn't feel particularly oppressive or scary -- at least not for someone with money and access living in a reasonably "nice"neighborhood, which I (a JHU grad student) was, and, as I understand it, she is too.
posted by escabeche at 5:55 PM on March 4


After seeing Halvorsen's piece with her response comments now, man, she's digging in her heels and going on the defensive in an unflattering way. Honestly, as a person with tendencies to jump on the defensive too quickly, this is a really powerful lesson in just how obnoxious that behavior looks and sounds to the offended party.

Just for an example, let me take her response paragraph clarifying what a "nice" neighborhood is to her.

Here's what I consider a nice, safe, neighborhood for instance: clean and litter free,

Leaving aside the fact that almost no urban neighborhood is 100 percent litter free, why does she think all that litter accumulates in less "nice" areas? It couldn't possibly have anything to do with the city concentrating cleaning efforts in wealthier areas, could it? No, it must be those bad (non-white) people who don't love their city sufficiently.

people outside talking, neighbors saying hello to each other,

I've seen this happen a lot in very poor neighborhoods that don't meet "no litter" standard, are majority Black or Latino, and often have terrible reputations from folks outside the neighborhood. Somehow, I don't think Halvorsen would be willing to look past the crumbling facades in these areas.

homes and sidewalks that look cared for

Because caring for your home's outside appearance is your absolute highest priority if you're working a minimum wage job! As for the sidewalks, that's the city's business, same problem as the litter.

and people who want to know you, engage with you, and care about the neighborhood.

How do you know that people in "not-nice" neighborhoods don't want to do those things?

That doesn’t mean affluent, white, or privileged — to me.

You know, I'll even take her at face value when she says that she doesn't think those qualities are inherent only to white or affluent areas. I just don't think she's thought through the subtext of why other areas have so much trash and so many dilapidated houses, and that failure to think through her implications is what leads to her doubling down so hard.
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:28 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Why do we have to boil the ocean? Why can't we start somewhere? Why are her concerns and her neighborhood not worthy of protection? Expand the radius one block at a time, heck, expand the perimeter one block at a time and before you know it, you can have everything you want.

Why do we have to conflate her safety and security concerns that can be solved with relatively few resources (cops) with issues of inequality that require a much larger investment in time and resources. I mean why do we *have* to? Why can't these two be worked on independently on their own scale?
posted by trol at 9:44 PM on March 4


trol: "Before someone beat me to the punch, I was going to bring up NYC's success (a place I have lived in for years and frequent often). I can take a stroll practically at any time of the night on any street in Manhattan (village, soho, ofcourse timesquare, upper east side, upper west side, midtown, even the seedy streets around penn station and 8th ave and higher in mid to upper 40s). I mean, the place is just safe, at all hours of day and night. Why is that not an option?"

As far as I can tell, NYPD and BPD function the same in every way that matters. In the past two decades - well after NY crime went on a downward spiral - certain authorities in NY have experimented with something called "stop and frisk." Generally, it didn't work - it was a misappropriation of police resources and just ended up focusing overwhelmingly on the innocent. The public mind is confused about this, I think, and assumes that "stop and frisk" is responsible for the downward spiral; but crime was already dissipating in most large cities (not just New York) years before "stop and frisk" was put into place.

The problem with stop and frisk, as I said, is that it's a misappropriation of police resources. Cops spent a huge amount of time frisking random innocents (or, unfortunately, not-so-random innocents - that is, minorities.)

What we need is a situation where police are properly administrated and appropriated. That's why the lead article here is so wrong - or one reason, at least: it confuses "nice neighborhoods" with a drop in crime, it confuses littering with violent muggings, and it confuses loitering with stabbing people in their homes. It is exactly backwards. How many murderers do you think do a lot of loitering? How many violent drug dealers are likely to litter in full view of police who can then arrest them? The answer: almost none. It would be a waste of time, and the wrong people would end up in jail.

When you have plenty of cops on the street, and crime is still terrible, then the problem is inevitably misadministration. Throwing more cops at the problem will not help misadministration. Throwing cops at different, apparently more obvious problems will not help, either. The problem is violent crime. So focus on violent crime. Not drug busts, not arrest quotas, and certainly not a focus on arresting litterers or loiterers - that is insane. Focus on violent crime.

That usually means focusing on guns first.
posted by koeselitz at 9:48 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Baltimore experimented with zero tolerance policing when O'Malley was elected in '99. People were arrested for all sorts of minor offenses, but 20% of people arrested were released without charges. There were targeted enforcement zones where entire neighborhoods were closed to traffic and you had to produce ID at a police checkpoint to prove you were a resident.

I lived downtown at the time, but this sort of thing was mostly invisible to me because I usually had no business going to the neighborhoods they were targeting. I think people of all demographics were initially supportive of the zero-tolerance approach, because murders were above 300 and violent crime was still high even though it had declined some from the crack epidemic in the 80s and early 90s. It got old really quickly once they realized relatively decent people were getting picked up for flimsy reasons, having their lives turned upside down for a few days, then released without any explanation. There was a class action lawsuit against the city supported by the ACLU and the NAACP and the city ended up paying close to a million dollars to settle.

Is it possible zero tolerance reduced crime? Maybe, but crime was going down pretty much everywhere. It may be that they just did zero tolerance poorly, but it's almost impossible to tell.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 7:16 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


How many murderers do you think do a lot of loitering? How many violent drug dealers are likely to litter in full view of police who can then arrest them? The answer: almost none.

This is not true. The whole reason "broken windows" caught on in the first place was the statistical discovery that a very small number of people committ most crime, and most criminals commit multiple crimes. Picking up people for turnstile-jumping nabbed a lot of folks who were fleeing a warrant for domestic violence, picking up litterers pulled in a number of folks with crack in their pockets, and so on.

Again, this thread exemplifies the problem. When someone says they don't like violent crime and wants less of it, people on the left discusses what the writer misses, what her assumptions are, how she has no real standing to complain about violence, how previous policing tactics led to unjust outcomes... and refuses to talk about what has successfully reduced violent crime in the past and what can reduce it in the future. We love to talk about "rape culture", but not punishing rapists; we love to talk about "the despair that led these young men to commit such a crime" but our suggestions for preventing such crimes seem like airy speculation.

This is absolutely central to how the right took over in the 70s, a period when violent crime was on the rise, people were terrified, and the left seemed to have nothing approaching a solution. The drop in crime has enabled the left, or at least liberals, to make some gains, but so long as the left is concerned with inequality and not concerned with crime, support will dissolve the instant someone is murdered in their home.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:52 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


The drop in crime has enabled the left, or at least liberals, to make some gains, but so long as the left is concerned with inequality and not concerned with crime, support will dissolve the instant someone is murdered in their home.

Maybe. On the other hand, political rhetoric and public perceptions around crime actually have surprisingly little to do with actual crime rates. Despite the wide reporting of the truly astonishing reductions in violent crime over the last two decades, people generally believe that crime is increasing and that the America of their childhood was substantially safer than the one they live in now: which is increasingly untrue for Americans of any age.

Nor is it clear that any of the initiatives taken by the right in response to the increasing violent crime of the 70s had any kind of positive effect on safety at all. In fact, violent crime rates peaked in the early 90s--a period that ushered in eight years of a Democratic presidency, and saw the beginning of the steady reduction of crime which we're still benefiting from.

So far as I can see with most of this stuff people just believe whatever the heck their political prejudices make convenient for them to believe (on both the right and left; just look at the references to NAFTA in this thread: a treaty that was signed in 1994, after the peak of the crime rate in Baltimore and after the collapse of Baltimore's steel industry).
posted by yoink at 9:22 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


How many murderers do you think do a lot of loitering? How many violent drug dealers are likely to litter in full view of police who can then arrest them? The answer: almost none.

Probably a fair amount in Baltimore, given that a lot of the violent crime is both by and against drug dealers who spend a lot of time waiting around outside for customers. And you have no idea about the littering here. I've seen people dump grocery bags of trash out of their windows when stopped at a light.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 11:14 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


When someone says they don't like violent crime and wants less of it, people on the left discusses what the writer misses, what her assumptions are, how she has no real standing to complain about violence, how previous policing tactics led to unjust outcomes... and refuses to talk about what has successfully reduced violent crime in the past and what can reduce it in the future

I can only speak to what happened here, although there's a lot of overlap since the crime fighting strategy was imported from NYC, police chief included. But the way zero tolerance was practiced here created a lot of collateral damage, and didn't show significant reductions over the decline in crime everywhere else. Does that mean zero tolerance doesn't work? Maybe. Maybe it's a problem of implementation, maybe it's just not a good long term strategy. Either way, it didn't seem to work any better than what we were doing before and it pissed off a lot of people in the process.

Anyway, we've got a new-ish police chief who just released a report on a new policing strategy if you want to talk strategy.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 12:09 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


How many murderers do you think do a lot of loitering? How many violent drug dealers are likely to litter in full view of police who can then arrest them? The answer: almost none.

Before attacking a straw man, it's worth understanding some of the theory of the broken-windows approach to policing. This classic article from 1982 is a good place to start.
posted by Dasein at 12:48 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Classic article that's been thoroughly debunked. See Ham Snadwich's comments above.
posted by koeselitz at 4:46 PM on March 5


I haven't done much in depth research, but the broken windows theory tells a story that seems like common sense and is appealing to the layman, but it's unclear on whether it actually delivers results.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 5:08 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


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