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What Has Made America’s Inner Cities Into A Violent Warzone

The stories coming out from Chicago and Baltimore paint an increasingly pessimistic picture: that America’s inner cities are transitioning into a warzone, where violence has returned to levels not seen since the drug wars of the early 1990s.

Take for example Chicago, five men were killed and at least 20 people shot over the four-day Christmas holiday weekend. Last year, 59 people were shot over the same period, leaving 11 dead.

Across the United States, homicides rose about 9% last year with more than one-third of the increase concentrated in Chicago neighborhoods, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Despite the overall deterioration of American inner cities, there was some improvement in areas such as Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., where declines in violent crimes have been in downward trajectories since the 1990s.

According to the WSJ, soaring homicides in Chicago and Baltimore share wide wealth inequality rates, de-industrialization, depleted residential real estate, and a reduction of police officers following the Ferguson effect in 2014. Nevertheless, the opioid crisis is fueling much of this death and despair in the inner cities, trapping the younger generations into a perpetual world of crime.

Meanwhile, in Washington and Los Angeles, “gang interventions and community policing,” which explores ways to strengthen the community have led to a long-term reduction in homicides. The article brings up the dreaded word gentrification, while it has worked in Washington to suppress crime, it has certainly not been effective in Chicago and or Baltimore.

David Weisburd, a criminologist at George Mason University said about 1% of city streets contributes to 25% of a city’s crime, and 5% of the streets produces half the crime. He coined the phrase the “law of crime concentration.”

In Chicago, half the violent crime came from five neighborhoods, including West Garfield Park, exemplifying Weisburd’s theory. In fact, crime in the area has surged to levels not seen since the “drug wars fueled by the crack-cocaine epidemic” of the 1990s.

 

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