homicide down, murder rates down in some cities

Better Enforcement Lowers Homicide Rates in Violent Cities

January 02, 2009 02:00 PM
by Rachel Balik
In such cities as Baltimore, Philadelphia and Dallas, murder rates decreased in 2008, but there is a long road ahead for curbing homicide in the United States.

Better Enforcement Lowers Homicide Rates

Former murder capitals Baltimore, Philadelphia and Dallas saw a decrease in murder rates in 2008. Houston and Detroit also reported better numbers for the year. Officials from these cities say the improvement is a direct result of better law enforcement practices and stricter gun regulations.

In Baltimore, for example, better collaboration between the city and the state has helped police to monitor crimes, ABC News reports. The collaboration helped officials create a gun offender registry and expedite arrests of parole violators.

In Philadelphia, 60 fewer homicides were committed in 2008 than in 2007, though the total number is still quite high: 332. Officials in Philadelphia attribute the improvement to a policy allowing officers to search drivers and pedestrians for guns. Dallas’ decrease is likely the result of the addition of 400 new police officers to the staff of 3000 in the past years. The city aims to have 4,000 officers on the streets in the next five years.
Experts note that, although improvement in a single year is important, watching the local climate and trends over an extended period of time offers more significant data. For example, Newark, N.J., reported the lowest murder rates in eight years in 2008, but the first homicide of the new year occurred at the 3:00 a.m. on January 1, WNYC reports.

Similarly, Los Angeles murder rates were down significantly last April, but officials were baffled by spikes in crime last spring. Malcolm Klein, a USC professor emeritus of sociology and gang expert, told the Los Angeles Times that short term statistics did not bear much consequence on the state of violence in a city, as statistics are cyclical.

Related Topic: Decreasing murder rates do not apply to young African Americans

The improvement for some cities is mirrored by an alarming spike in the number of violent crimes involving young black males. A study conducted at Northeastern University reports that the number of homicides committed by African-American males rose 43 percent from 2002 to 2007. The study, available in PDF form from NPR, cites the overall improvement in homicide numbers as contributing toward complacency about the number of crimes committed by African Americans specifically. Thus, minimal effort is made to tackle the problem.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, posting to AlterNet, writes that for young blacks the typical strategies such as money for crime prevention, more police officers on the streets and stricter laws have failed repeatedly. Although these measures seem to work for the country as a whole, this demographic is excluded from the overall improvement. Hutchison describes deep-seeded cultural and racial tension that needs to be eliminated, especially the cumulative devaluation of black lives. In the past, crimes committed against black people by black people have been ignored, he says, spreading the conception that “life is cheap and easy to take.”

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