Baltimore is the second-deadliest city in the United States when
measured by murder rate. Last year, 234 of Baltimores 640,000 residents
were murdered, a decrease from 282 the year before and an all-time high
of 379 in 1993. Even with 2008's improved homicide rate, the odds of
being killed in Baltimore last year was 1 in 2,735. Detroit, ranked
number one for murder rates, is even worse. But Baltimore provided an
interesting case study for pundits to examine the mechanisms that make
a city with a high murder rate so bad.
- Baltimore's 'Two Worlds' The UK Independent's Mark Hughes finds them quite separated. "One columnist in the Baltimore Sun recently
described Baltimore as a city of two worlds. It is in the 'other
world', the one populated by drug dealers and gangsters, that most
murders occur. Those not involved in the drug trade are apparently as
unlikely to be murdered in Baltimore as they are in any other civilised
city in the world. Figures seem to suggest that
is true. Of the 234 murders last year, 194 of the victims (82 per cent)
had criminal records and 163 (70 per cent) had a history of being
arrested for drug offences."
- Misleading Statistics The Washington Post's Ezra Klein notes
that the very violent part of Baltimore makes the entire city look more
violent than it really is, since most of the murders happen to people
who are convicts anyway. "You see this a lot: Some schools look very
bad until you control for
income, and then they look pretty much fine for the type of kids who
end up in private schools that generally serve kids of higher incomes.
That's the problem with statistics: They're not always measuring what
people think they're measuring."
- The Young And Foolish The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates recalls
his old Baltimore home. He that living in a community with a lot of
crime tends to tempt younger people into that lifestyle. "I'm not
discounting the innocent bystander--it certainly happens.
But a lot of the 'survival' that goes on in the neighborhood involves
who you hang around, and where you hang within that neighborhood.
Everyone there knows certain blocks are hot, and certain young fools
are even hotter. That, of course, is the trick of being
young--the 16-year-old with the 24-year-old drug dealer boyfriend sees
the car, but doesn't necessarily get that she's raising her chances of
being murdered. The 16-year-old boy wants to be up in the mix and the
excitement, even if he isn't really a crook. He doesn't know that by
merely hanging out he's playing with his mortality stats. Or maybe he
does, and that's the point."
- Crime Causes Poverty, Which Causes Crime Matthew Yglesias explains
how a high crime rate destroys a neighborhood's economy. "The bulk of
the cost of crime almost certainly isn’t the cost directly paid by
victims, it’s the costs incurred in terms of crime-avoiding behavior.
Some of this cost is in terms of the efforts people living in
high-crime areas go through to keep themselves safe. And some of it is
quite far reaching. A dangerous neighborhood may, in fact, be
relatively safe for people who live their and know the score. But it’s
dangerous to outsiders. Which means that even if you’ve got some great
recipes it’ll be hard to open up a restaurant and attract customers no
matter how low the prevailing rents are. Which means that jobs serving
the food and cleaning up won’t be available, and it means that young
people who might get those jobs won’t acquire the skills that would
have been involved in working alongside you and learning your recipes."
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