No Man's Land
October 14, 2008 4:46 AM   Subscribe

The geography of fear. Children map the no-go areas that blight their lives.
posted by WPW (30 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is a good article. It's very frustrating that the diagrams discussed in the text don't line up to the gallery, however. For example, it says In diagram 4, an 18-year-old man has drawn the boundaries of where he lives, noting the position of CCTV cameras. In total, the mapped space is less than 200 sq metres - that's actually diagram 6. What they call Diagram 5 shows up first, etc.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 5:11 AM on October 14, 2008


Here's a link to the full report.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 5:22 AM on October 14, 2008


Whoa ... That's the kind of maps you expect in a guerrilla zone.

Is it me or does the situation is critical in England ? From the last articles i read it looks like British kids are all becoming a pack of hoodie-wearing stabbing little gangsters.

I know that young people worldwide seems to become more violent.
I can clearly see it in France but it's minor compared to England for example the last problem we had was just a kid who hit his professor last month.
posted by Jaloux Saboteur at 6:41 AM on October 14, 2008


I was so hoping this was going to be a map of a kid's room, with "here there be monsters" notations for under the bed, in the closet, and behind the door.
posted by mothershock at 7:18 AM on October 14, 2008 [6 favorites]


Ten years ago I lived with an English guy who was attending school in Canada. I believe he lived in a suburb of London, although I can't remember which one. Anyway, one night he talked at length about how he couldn't enter specific parts of the city (or travel to certain other English towns) because his accent and/or football team affiliation would get him beaten the fuck up. It's sad to hear that the problem has, if anything, gotten worse over the past decade.

> Is it me or does the situation is critical in England ? From the last articles i read it looks like British kids are all becoming a pack of hoodie-wearing stabbing little gangsters.

Why England is rotting.
posted by you just lost the game at 7:19 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I remember being a little shocked when I was in London last year and reading in the papers about all of the teenage stabbings. One girl was thirteen, IIRC.

Of course, the level of violence in Chicago, Newark, Philly, and other major US cities are probably on par, if not worse.
posted by jnaps at 7:24 AM on October 14, 2008


I'd be interested to see a comparison of maps from kids in the US, England, and Iraq. I imagine there would be a striking amount of similarities.
posted by cal71 at 7:24 AM on October 14, 2008


It's strange how one map (the insanely detailed grid-based one, female, 15, yorkshire) is obsessed with Asians. No Asians! Asians! All Asians!

This is a strange, sad, wonderful post.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 7:30 AM on October 14, 2008


Oakland, California would be most mappable. But here in the US it's guns, not knives that seem to rule the day (and night). Thanks for the post.
posted by emhutchinson at 7:49 AM on October 14, 2008


It's strange how one map (the insanely detailed grid-based one, female, 15, yorkshire) is obsessed with Asians. No Asians! Asians! All Asians!


btw, in this context, Asian = from the subcontinent.
posted by atrazine at 7:50 AM on October 14, 2008


Is it me or does the situation is critical in England ?

While I think it's clear that the UK is having some real problems with the overlapping effects of alcohol abuse, social exclusion, racism, and so on, I think that these sorts of drawings are actually a pretty normal part of children's mental maps of where they lived.

I grew up in a small town, one of those totally safe places where kids could roam around freely, ride their bikes, and all of that. No worries about kidnapping or gangs or fast traffic or any of the other serious worries.

But even so, I could still -- twenty-some years later -- draw you a map of the neighborhood from my elementary-school-aged eyes, and it would look like a patchwork of go/don't go areas. And again, the "don't go" areas for my childhood are nothing like the "don't go" areas of someone growing up on a violent housing estate.

But all the kids on my street knew to skirt well around the house with the creepy guy in it, for example. And the house with vicious dogs, too. And we rode our bikes downtown all the time, but the alley that went behind a couple of sketchy bars was seriously off-limits to us, though we never even really talked about it.

And when you add in not just real or imagined threats of violence, but also the sense of social exclusion, then there were even more places that would be colored red for "no go" on my childhood map. There were plenty of streets, even in a small town, where my friends and I knew that we didn't belong, and we didn't go there, ever.

But had you asked any of our parents, they would have said "Oh, the kids can go anywhere" (except maybe that alley behind the bars) -- all the nuances of the creepy guy and the streets where the kids there threw rocks at us that one time just aren't part of the adult mental map of the world.
posted by Forktine at 7:51 AM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sounds like Chicago, really.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:00 AM on October 14, 2008


It seems that every other week there's another yawniferous article about how children aren't allowed to roam more that 6 feet from their home or yet another "the pedos are coming for the kiddies" article. Then we're surprised that kids think like this?

Constantly making children scared inculcates a sense of fear? Shocker.

Perception.
posted by mandal at 8:11 AM on October 14, 2008


It also looks somewhat like a lunchroom map at a school.

I bought my wife an exceptionally well crafted switchblade (vg-10 steel, balanced, etc.) and trained her in using it. I expect to do the same with my kids. Plus improvisation (plenty of stuff in the street to use). Of course, that’s just insurance. There’s no substitute for wit.

But there’s no excuse for this kind of thing happening. Or remaining. Best way to get through it is to start making those borders permeable.

Not that that’s easy. And this is not to say it didn’t happen here in Chicago. It did. Offhand the most glaring example is the Gaylords on the north side. But that was more of a gang thing.

I’m not sure that this isn’t though. I don’t know the situation in London. But the modern connotation “gang” has picked up is the drug thug thing. That’s really not what gangs started as.

Indeed, you can go all the way back to the five points in New York and look at the racial (albeit immigrant) divide.

What appears to be happening here seems to have gone back to those roots. The claiming of a certain chunk of ground and defending it beyond reason. It’s not smart, but it’s a very human thing to do.

To me the cameras - while they might be well intentioned - represent the same kind of ‘barricade’ mentality. Authority is removed, a thing apart; a player, but at a different level, and (although watchful) immoble as well.

And as soon as you lose mobility - you, y’know, lose.
As per this exact situation in the story. No one can really go anywhere. Everyone loses.

So I’m wondering why aren’t there police patrols on, say, bikes? Has London adopted a community policing approach? (I genuinely don’t know).
posted by Smedleyman at 8:14 AM on October 14, 2008


Living in Chicago I'm not sure how this is like Chicago.
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:15 AM on October 14, 2008


And I’ll agree with the above - it is like Chicago. It’s very spotted out here. However the more serious gangs doing business tend to brush aside the lesser gang activity so you likely won’t get jumped if you’re just going to the store or something. Oh, it does happen. But no one wants to bring attention to themselves for minor crimes if they’re into something major.
...not that that’s, y’know, ideal.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:18 AM on October 14, 2008


However the more serious gangs doing business tend to brush aside the lesser gang activity so you likely won’t get jumped if you’re just going to the store or something. Oh, it does happen. But no one wants to bring attention to themselves for minor crimes if they’re into something major.

There is also an incredible amount of self-enforced segregation. Lots of people (without any criminal ties, necessarily) confine themselves to a single neighborhood, or small group of neighborhoods. Even more common is restricting oneself from visiting neighborhoods nearby, for race or class based reasons.

With Cabrini down, things are certainly more mixed-up, but I don't know if the actual root causes are getting better or not.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:24 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can clearly see it in France but it's minor compared to England for example the last problem we had was just a kid who hit his professor last month.

A couple weeks ago I was working in a classroom designated for the worst kids in one of the worst public school in Philly. The teacher was a thirty year vet who's been taken out of school on a stretcher no less than four times. Last year he got fucked up real bad by an elementary school kid. The kids in this class I was assigned to would throw furniture and shit, fist fight, it was wild. We established very early that you do not fuck with "the big bald lumberjack lookin' mother fucker" and from there things went pretty smoothly for me.

I wish I had seen this last week, I was working in an elementary school in the middle of the Badlands and maybe could have tried this out with a couple students. The first thing the janitor at this school did every morning when he got to work was go sweep all the empty dope bags and syringes off the sidewalk outside. I'm not sure how this map drawing exercise would have worked with the kid I was assigned to do behavioral health work with, though, because he came from one of the established heroin families in the neighborhood and was a huge bully with an attitude like he owned the place and everyone should bow down to him because his brothers are known around the neighborhood as stone killers. This kid was, like, ten years old, btw.

I'm getting sent into another gnarly elementary school I think later this week, I'm meeting with the program coordinator later today. If I get an opportunity I'll see if I can try this with a couple kids.
posted by The Straightener at 8:29 AM on October 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Forktine - absolutely. When I was little, there was the estate where I might get beaten up because I was too posh, but probably wouldn't because I was from the same area and went to the same school as the kids who lived there, the estate where no one from my school would ever go, &c.

No Asians! Asians! All Asians!

Some towns in the North are nigh on segregated, white and Asian children go to different schools, tabloid reporting and BNP propaganda makes white people believe that Asian families get preferential treatment in terms of housing and services, and has them routinely overestimate the number of immigrants in their local area by tens of thousands. It's a terrible mess, but completely understandable that a girl in Yorkshire would divide the city up into 'chavs' and Asians.

From the last articles i read it looks like British kids are all becoming a pack of hoodie-wearing stabbing little gangsters.

You might want to stop reading the Daily Mail. Across the UK, knife crime has remained stable over the last decade, and in London, kife crime has gone down by 15% over the last two years (stats quoted here). I'm not saying knife crime isn't a problem, just that the media scaremongering is unrelated to what's actually happening - kids with knives are the new paedos, basically.
posted by jack_mo at 8:55 AM on October 14, 2008


Knee jerk response: oh my god, the kids are all gone to hell.

And then I remember having a knife pulled on me for some ridiculous reason when I was thirteen way back when in the lush Canadian suburbia of the 1970s. For the record, I just kept my distance from the idiot and walked in the general direction of the nearest adult. Nothing came of it. I never told my parents or any other adult for that matter. It certainly didn't make the papers.
posted by philip-random at 9:05 AM on October 14, 2008


Is it me or does the situation is critical in England ? From the last articles i read it looks like British kids are all becoming a pack of hoodie-wearing stabbing little gangsters.


Well, no. There are bad places across the country, but most of what you hear is moral panic (Hoodies! Knives! Immigrants! Terrorists!), fostered by a tabloid press that seems to have adopted the mission of keeping the English populace scared. Enough of it and the problems create themselves - kids wear hoodies as an act of rebellion, knives gain the image of seriously dangerous weapons, immigrants grow uneasy and insular under the suspicious eyes of the locals.

A caveat: if I read the death statistics correctly, "assault by a sharp object" is a major contributor, but this is amongst a relatively low number for deliberate deaths, that fades away next to the deaths from traffic accidents or cancer or cardiovascular disease.
posted by outlier at 9:44 AM on October 14, 2008


And this is not to say it didn’t happen here in Chicago. It did. Offhand the most glaring example is the Gaylords on the north side. But that was more of a gang thing.
Oh, give me a break. Until very recently, and to some extent still, there were huge racial boundaries in Chicago. Remember Lenard Clark, the 13-year-old black kid who was nearly beaten to death for transgressing one of those boundaries in 1997? We're not talking about the 1919 race riot here. That article I liked to is from almost exactly ten years ago. Not exactly ancient history.

(If the story I linked to doesn't make you want to punch someone, I don't know what would.)
posted by craichead at 10:11 AM on October 14, 2008


“there were huge racial boundaries in Chicago”

Yep. Still are. In fact as I said, it’s spotted. But it’s not as violent - on racial terms - for the reasons I mentioned. Which are not exactly ideal.

Or are you asserting the Lenard Clark assault and others is on par with the more than 300 homicides steming from retaliatory shootings and battles over drug turf by dozens of highly structured, decades old criminal organizations that grew out of the loss of manufacturing jobs - such that the landscape is dominated not by ethnic lines, but by weedy lots, and vacant storefronts broken only by the occasional tavern, liquor/convenience store and usurious check cashing currency exchanges?

The problem is the high concentration of poverty and warehousing in public housing, not ethnic tension.

Hell, you’ve got the Cobras and Latin Kings at each others throats and they’re all Hispanic. There are seven different flavors of Vice Lords in the 11th district alone, they don’t give a damn that your white, brown, black or just like them.
You’re either a customer, a nobody, or a rival and so a threat to be taken down.

Oh, they might hassle you if you’re a nobody of a different color (or even the same color). Might even beat the hell out of you. But it’s more just for a goof or to get some respect from peers than it is any sort of ethnic tension thing.

Not that it’s not ethnic at all, understand.

But the real problem is that you graduate from high school and there’s nowhere to go except the corner.

So in London the solution might be to make those boundries more permeable. That’s speculation on my part, but maybe it would work. More cops on the street keeping people from getting jumped couldn’t hurt.

In Chicago - different story. I agree that it looks the same as London (from what I’m seeing) in terms of: this is an Korean neighborhood, this is a Polish neighborhood, this is a Hispanic neighborhood, this is a Black neighborhood - but the solution wouldn’t be to get folks to mix because the *root* problem isn’t ethnic tension enforced boundries (erasing the boundries in Chicago would create even more violence as gangs move in to carve out new turf).

Not that ethnic tension isn’t a problem, but it’s a minor chord in the symphony that is the massive lack of educational and economic advancement and the resultant black market organizations that rise to meet needs.

Is that what’s going on in London? (I have no clue)
posted by Smedleyman at 10:53 AM on October 14, 2008


Eighty seven people were killed in the first three months of 2008 alone in
Chicago.
The city began Operation Safe Passage - which is similar to what I suggested for London - police escorts, permeable borders, etc.
It’s pretty much just a band-aid here though.
We spend too much tax money on police and jails that could be put into infrastructure, job creation, etc. etc. which would better keep a lid on the homicide rate.
After that’s done - then we can worry about racial tension. Although I do think social inequity and race are coupled.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:13 AM on October 14, 2008


I think the urban problems in Britain are probably pretty similar in origin to the urban problems in America. They're the result of the decline of decent working-class jobs, compounded by terrible urban planning, racism and ethnic tensions (although of a different sort than in America), and at this point a multi-generational culture of poverty which is the result of all the aforementioned stuff. The big difference is that a significant portion of the British urban underclass is white, and therefore British urban poverty seems more compelling to some Americans than our own type. But I don't think it's really all that different, and I suspect that the mental maps that American inner-city kids would draw would be very similar to the ones that British inner-city kids produce.
posted by craichead at 11:14 AM on October 14, 2008


Great discussion everyone. The article is undeniably chilling and rather sad, but for me that's partly because it doesn't match up entirely with my experience.

I live in Tower Hamlets, one of the areas examined in this study, and despite its awful reputation in the country and the city at large I've found it to be largely unthreatening and friendly. The moral panic in the papers bears no resemblance to the actual situation on the streets. There is certainly a terrible problem with drunkenness in the capital, rowdy and sometimes intimidating drunks seem to take over the nightlife-heavy areas of the city and large parts of the public transport network, but although they are a dire antisocial nuisance I don't think the physical threat is particularly great.

In terms of "feral kids", I haven't seen much evidence of it. But I am 30 and do not have kids of my own, and what this research seems to indicate is that kids are the victims of this gang culture, as well as the perpetrators. But the issue is surrounded in a fug of moral panic. I'm not surprised that some kids are going seriously bad (if they are) because they are shunned as pariahs by "right-thinking" Daily Mail readers and a declining number of adults want to work with them for fear of the hysteria around paedophilia. As other posters have said, crime is steady or dropping, including violent crime. But sadly, fear is about the only thing that sells mid-market and tabloid newspapers now.

Two things that I think would make a big difference are desegregation of schools and the provision of more parks, public spaces and leisure facilities. British cities are terribly starved of public space, swimming pools, sports centres and the like. London has a reputation for being filled with parks, and that's true to a point, but it doesn't apply to the East End and some other parts of the city. Many Britons have tiny cramped homes, especially in the capital, and public space is urgently needed as a counter to that. Genuinely public space, not privatised retail opportunities and lifestyle concepts.
posted by WPW at 1:28 PM on October 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Although I think Smedleyman's analysis of the situation in Chicago is basically correct, I don't agree that racial conflicts are not a part of the problem.

Almost all of the problems in the city's most violent neighborhoods are either in some way caused or exacerbated by the racial and socioeconomic isolation of those neighborhoods:

*schools of such low quality that it simply would not be tolerated in a better-off or white neighborhood, but because it's a poor black neighborhood many experienced teachers don't want to work there, those that do have had their needs ignored for so long they are frequently cynical.
*tons of trash on the streets in poorer neighborhoods while downtown, huge crews plant thousands of tulips each spring
*people in poor neighborhoods are isolated and therefore do not have as broad of a network of employed/middle-class neighbord who they can use as job contacts. Plus mixed-income/mixed race neighborhoods would likely have more local job opportunities.
*police hostility due to stereotypes - if eveyone in a neighborhood is poor and black, and some of those people cause crime, police generalize to think that nearly everyone is a criminal or a gangster.

Basically, Chicago has a long history of racism on the part of its citizens, its government, its institutions. Even if that racism ended, the problems it created are so exacerbated by the racial and socioeconomic isolation of many neighborhoods that they wouldn't necessarily go away. Not to mention the fact that racial segregation tends to reinforce racism - I take as my evidence for that my students' ignorance about Mexican-Americans.
posted by mai at 2:38 PM on October 14, 2008


The spate of teenage stabbings in the UK earlier this year seemed real enough, but when you look at the stats, things are put into perspective:

Total homicides, children age 1-5 (1995): 19
Total homicides, children age 1-5 (2005/06): 11

Total homicides, children age 5-16 (1995): 44
Total homicides, children age 5-16 (2005/06): 20

Unfortunately, as commented above, it tends to ruin the newspapers' game to cite such figures, so typically they don't.

Source link for figures
posted by internationalfeel at 2:54 PM on October 14, 2008


“Even if that racism ended, the problems it created are so exacerbated by the racial and socioeconomic isolation of many neighborhoods that they wouldn't necessarily go away.”

Fair point. They are perhaps indivisibly related, so the institutions are frozen into the pattern.

“demonstrated just how deeply British society has been corrupted by the twin cults of celebrity and victimhood.”

Yeah our social commentators are dicks too.

Is that a solid fact though? That “UNICEF this year ranked Britain bottom in the league of industrialized nations in terms of the well-being of children”? ‘Cos that’d be a big red flag right there.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:53 PM on October 14, 2008


Maybe the correlation between on-screen violence and violence in society also plays a part in this phenomenon, as well as the general atmosphere today.
Meta-analysis shows that the statistical correlation between exposure to media violence and aggression is not quite as strong as that linking smoking to an increased risk of lung cancer. It is, howener, double the strength of the correlation of passive smoking and lung cancer, twice as strong as the link between condom use and reduction in risk of catching HIV, about three times the strength of the idea that calcium increases bone strength, and more than three times as strong as the correlation between time spent doing homework and academic achievement.
Having said that, my childhood in the UK innercity did not involve any no-go areas due to gang or race related fears. There was sometimes talk about having a battle with a gang from another area, but they always failed to turn up at the appointed time (or perhaps did not exist). There were pshycho kids who got up to things that were fairly Dahmer-esque, but they were shunned by most. There was stuff going on, but you didn't need to be involved unless you wanted to. Video nasties failed to turn the 80's into a gore-fest.
Areas that were only accessible via local transport were de facto off limits, mostly due to the fact we didn't know anyone there, so we wouldn't go there.
posted by asok at 6:52 AM on October 15, 2008


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