The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
October 12, 2012
What has the greatest influence on homicides? Is it policing, education, gun control, employment, the drug trade or gang activity? If you look at trends this year in four cities--policing gets the nod.
Four major U.S. cities—Detroit, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles--have contrasting approaches to violent crime and very different results.
In Detroit, homicides are up 10 percent this year, with 298 killings in little more than nine months. The city has also endured a string of high-profile, brazen crimes that made international headlines, including a pair of high profile carjackings.
Police union members, upset over a 10 percent pay cut in a city the FBI designated the second-most violent in the nation, handed out fliers last Sunday to baseball fans near Comerica Park. They warned: "Enter Detroit at your own risk."
To make things even worse, this week the police chief resigned amid a sex scandal.
In Chicago, the Cook County Board President is considering a violence tax on guns and ammunition sold in the city and suburbs to generate revenue for a city in the red.
Murders in Chicago are up 25 percent this year, according to recent police statistics, and the county jail is filling up -- with more than 9,000 inmates, in facilities that hold about 10,000.
Chicago police have been asked to cut their $1.3 billion budget by a hefty $190 million.
In contrast, New York City has seen a 17 percent decrease in homicides from last year, putting the city on pace to record fewer than 400 homicides this year -- which would be the fewest since reliable record keeping began.
To put this in perspective, in 1990 NYC recorded 2,245 murders.
New York's aggressive police tactics, while successful, have some detractors. Last month, the NAACP held a silent street protest to draw attention to its demand that the controversial "stop and frisk" policy be ended.
In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment permits a “stop and frisk” based upon a “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity to protect the officer's safety during an investigation.
In Los Angeles there were 612 homicides in 2011. As of September 30 there were 417. L.A. is on track to have 9 percent fewer homicides in 2012.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, in conjunction with former police Chief William Bratton and various community organizations, created the Gang Reduction and Youth Development Office (GRYD).
The idea behind the gang reduction plan was to target resources to communities most in need of reducing gang-related violence. The approach consisted of 17 strategies including crisis response, employment and engaging families multi-generationally to reduce gang activity.
According to the mayor’s office gang-related crime in GRYD zones has fallen nearly 30 percent.
Cuts and controversy have had a negative impact on homicide rates, while aggressive policing and community collaboration have had the opposite. What will the future bring for cash-strapped communities across the country?
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