The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

All Neighborhoods Are Not Created Equal

Posted on | July 31, 2022 | No Comments

One of the things that caused the impressive reduction of crime in New York City in the 1990s was CompStat, where data about criminal activity in the city was compiled and analyzed in weekly reports that gave police detailed information about when and where crime was happening. This allowed police to concentrate their efforts on specific areas at the most likely time to apprehend perpetrators. The CompStat approach was subsequently emulated by other law-enforcement agencies, and thereby helped produce a nationwide downward trend in crime that began in the 1990s and continued for about 20 years, until the “Ferguson effect” took hold during Obama’s second term. The important point is that CompStat, along with other technological advances (e.g., widespread video surveillance), made law enforcement more effective in apprehending and prosecuting criminals. This is why liberal complaints about “racial profiling” and “mass incarceration” are so misguided. If there is a rash of street robberies in a particular location, and victims of these crimes are reporting that their attackers are young black males, the cops trying to prevent these crimes can’t do so by scrutinizing elderly Chinese women in some other neighborhood. Investigations will focus on specific locations, and on suspects fitting witness descriptions. Add video to the investigative toolkit, and not only are police better able to identify suspects, but they obtain evidence that makes it much easier to get convictions — the jury can see the crime for themselves.

More effective law enforcement meant more criminals going to prison, and it wasn’t innocent people who were getting locked up. The “social justice” crowd engages in deliberate deception about the factors in so-called “mass incarceration,” and they do so for two reasons: Money and politics. It is little appreciated how many tens of millions of dollars annually are poured into the coffers of “social justice” groups by gigantic tax-exempt foundations. That money goes to hire an army of researchers, writers and publicists who promote these misleading narratives that, in turn, are amplified by Democratic Party politicians and activists trying to win elections. All of these people have incentives to maintain the belief that statistical disparities in crime are the products of “systemic racism” — it’s their job, it’s what pays their bills — and will respond to any pushback by accusing their opponents of racism. Because most journalists are sympathetic to the political objectives of these activists, the public is presented with a distorted picture of crime and law enforcement, particularly as it pertains to the black community.

Manhattan Institute scholar Rafael A. Mangual has produced a new book, Criminal (In)Justice, examining this crucial topic:

The effects of serious violent crime are not evenly distributed. Criminal violence has long been both geographically and demographically hyper-concentrated. In New York, about 3.5 percent of street segments see about 50 percent of the city’s violent crime; and every year for well over a decade, a minimum of 95 percent of shooting victims are either black or Hispanic (the vast majority of them male). Uncomfortable as it may make some people, you’ll see similar disparities in the statistics of shooting suspects. Nationally, black males constitute between 6 and 7 percent of the population but are murdered at a rate ten times that of their white counterparts. And homicides are tightly clustered in a relative handful of neighborhoods in and around American cities. For example, in 2019, the national murder rate was five per 100,000. In the ten most dangerous Chicago neighborhoods, which are 95.7 percent black or Latino, the 2019 homicide rate was a whopping 61.7 per 100,000. As high as that number is, it actually understates how dangerous some of those neighborhoods actually are. West Garfield Park, for example, had a 2019 murder rate of 131 per 100,000.
My book highlights data like these for two reasons. First, a thorough understanding of how violence is (and has long been) concentrated helps us understand exactly who it is that will suffer the most should a particular policy program diminish public safety, and, by extension, who it is that will gain the most should a particular policy program enhance public safety.
Second, the reality of crime concentration can help contextualize some of the disparities in enforcement statistics that we hear so much about — disparities often seized upon to make the cases for mass decarceration and depolicing as a means of pursuing racial equity. If the most serious crimes are occurring in very small slices of our cities, and affecting particular demographic groups more than others, then it is entirely reasonable for enforcement resources to be disproportionately deployed to these areas. Disparities would naturally arise from that uneven distribution of law-enforcement resources. In other words, if we accept as legitimate the decision to police neighborhoods where victimization rates are highest, we must also accept as legitimate that police are going to interact disproportionately with the people spending time in those neighborhoods.
To focus on the disparate rate of interactions in a vacuum is to ignore important context that, when accounted for, undermines the assertion that enforcement disparities are driven exclusively by racial animus. . . .

Read the whole thing, and you can click here to buy Criminal Injustice: What the Push for Decarceration and Depolicing Gets Wrong and Who It Hurts Most. (Hat-tip: John Tierney at Instapundit.)