Saturday, February 03, 2007

There's Still Crime in the City

So now I'm doin' it my way
I took the law in my hands


USA Today: Cities see crime surge as threat to their revival

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Violent crime leaps in city

Time Magazine: The Next Crime Wave

From an interview with outgoing Milwaukee chief of police Nan Hagerty:


First of all, it’s important for people to realize that, as a police department, we end up with problems that are many times created because of society. You’re talking about a lack of jobs. Years ago, there were people who could get good, family-supporting jobs in factories with very little education, work for 25 years and retire with a retirement benefit. That is when Milwaukee was the safest city in the nation. All of those jobs have left.

With those lack of jobs has come an increase in the rate of poverty, a teen pregnancy rate in Milwaukee that’s just out of this world, and, of course, all of the other things that come with that.


Same issue, the Milwaukee Shepherd-Express's response to the Time story.

From Flickr.com user Boxchain: March Against Crime in New Orleans, with some very large and very angry crowds.

In my own life, my housemate's car was stolen, someone got mugged on the street right in front of our house, a co-worker's car was broken into, two more cars on the same lot were broken into this week, and my own car has been rifled through twice in the last few months (lost my MP3 player, the only time I've left anything valuable in the car in years. Damn!!) A lady was punched in the face by a random guy a few blocks from my girlfriend's Chicago apartment. Over in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood (analogous to West Philadelphia, or to a lesser extent, Old North St. Louis), a group has started a foot patrol to help keep some eyes on the streets during peak bar hours.

People want to flee from it, run away to the suburbs, move further and further and further out, as if running away will solve the problem.

It won't. The problem always catches up, no matter how far you run.

You look around and suddenly your 1950s suburb is going down hill, the "wrong people" are starting to move in, and oh crap, it's time to leap outwards to the next ring of the peripheral exurban rim. (And hey, guess what? Scientists have just informed us that we can't afford to keep running anymore.)

The whole system is broken, just unbelievabley broken. We've created an entire underclass of unemployed people who see no prospects, no hope, no future, who have become culturally engrained to oppose anything that might resemble progress or self-improvement. Guns get tossed around like candy and fired off like firecrackers. People are just crazy out there.

And it all spirals onwards because we allow our animalistic craving for revenge, for punishment, override our human sensibility, our rational thought processes. We're locking up more people now than ever before, and can we really say it's working? Of course not. We aren't doing jack to improve these people, to give them hope, treatment, training, a path to follow once they're released, a plan, prospects, a place to go. They get back on the street and they're right back at it. What else do we actually expect them to do??

And it's killing my cities, the places that I love, the all-too-rare man-made places in America that are truly beautiful and humanizing -- not to mention the places that are our best hope for the future, the kind of places that we all need to be re-compacting ourselves into if we're ever to curb our auto-based carbon emissions so we don't wreck the entire goddamn planet and wipe ourselves out in the process. It doesn't matter if we manage to dig up any more oil or not, because the atmosphere simply can't handle our current carbon output. Technology will. not. save us. Urban, non-auto-centric living will, but don't count on our *expletives deleted* president to tell you that. Hell, no politician is ever likely to; it's not a very popular thing to say. It would actually challenge people to change their life styles.

The cities are our future -- as a nation, as a civilized society, as a species. They must be fought for, defended, with both determination and intelligence. They must be rebuilt to accomdate all our population, not just the rich or the poor or the people inbetween. I'd really hope that we might be able to save a few old buildings in the process, because so much of what we build today just isn't very nice to look at compared to what we built a hundred years ago... but in the end that's less important than heading off a global catastrophe and maybe building some cities that are actually good places to walk, work, play, and live in... without a space-consumptive, carbon-spewing automobile.

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