mm381: Crime’s up. Economy’s down. Next question?

MUDGE’s Musings

Driving earlier this evening to pick up take out for dinner, found myself listening to radio news. Never do that, if I can help it. But this story sprang out at me.

It’s a crime story. Not usually a staple of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©. And it’s our next installment in a ever-lengthening series.

“May you live in interesting times”

mm380: The return of cheap gasoline
mm370: How can you tell our president is lying?
mm347: It’s official, we’re depressed — er, recessed
mm344: Welcome to interesting times
mm337: Dare we trust the guys who got us into this mess?
mm335: Are you prepared for interesting times?
mm334: Rearranging deck chairs
mm333: “Great people shouldn’t have a resume”
mm331: Obama at Cooper Union: Lincoln?
mm328: Today’s economics lesson: Depression 101
mm309: The news Bush really hates you to hear
mm289: Recession: Paying the price for our power
mm285: Mayor Mike tells some hard truths
mm263: This man -so- wants to pull the trigger…
mm257: The R-Word – Not that racy television show
mm256: I don’t hate big corporations, either

“Hold on, Mudge,” I hear faithful reader protesting. “What the devil does crime have to do with our deepening recession.”

Just about everything.


City crime statistics show increased violence

Violent crime is up 6% in first four months of the year compared with 2007, police say

By Angela Rozas | Tribune reporter |

4:52 PM CDT, May 16, 2008

Homicides in Chicago rose by almost 9 percent, while violent crime was up more than 6 percent in the first four months of 2008, compared with the same period last year, Police Supt. Jody Weis said Friday.

Weis blamed the uptick in violence on “unique” sets of multiple homicides, including two triple murders and a quintuple homicide, all in April. In April, there were 47 murders, compared with 34 the year before. A total of 134 homicides were tallied over the first four months of the year, compared with 123 in 2007.

Weis said the department is trying to combat the violence by improving coordination between patrol officers and specialized units and focusing more on the city’s hot spots to quell gang violence. He also said the department plans to conduct joint missions with specialized units and will deploy helicopters to patrol over the hot spots.
Some units have already been taking to the streets on weekends in battle dress, a visual deterrent to crime, Weis said.

First, some context.

The Chicago Police Department has required overhauling and reforming just about every 10 years. I don’t actually have the stomach to do the research for you, but the CPD wants to be a better department, but keeps falling short, in ugly ways. Detectives whose night jobs employed them as mob assassins. Cops whose methods for extracting confessions from suspects would sicken those hardened activists at Amnesty International. Etc.

Every few years, they bring in a new Superintendent of Police to clean house. The latest, who was appointed just over three months ago, has the oddly uncoplike name of Jody Weis, and came to Chicago from leading the Philadelphia office of the FBI.

So violent crimes are up. Yr (justifiably) humble svt is not at all surprised.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

City crime statistics show increased violence — —

In the mid-1990s, big city police departments took credit for a stunning reduction in crimes of all kinds, especially violent crimes. This occurred most emphatically in New York City under Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his hand-picked chief of police, Bernard Kerik. Kerik, a man who may yet go to jail himself, succeeded William Bratton, the man who in NYC and later in Los Angeles provided the clean sweeping broom in those cities, and whom Giuliani replaced when Bratton seemed to be getting more credit than Rudy for the improved crime statistics.

Okay, there’s no question that the NYC department required overhauling; they all seem to every few years. Every bureaucracy becomes set in its ways, resistant to internally driven change. When your bureaucracy carries batons and loaded sidearms, the need for radical change becomes more pressing.

But it’s my contention that the true cause of the incredibly steep decline in violent crimes in NYC and most big cities, including Chicago, was not improved policing, but a greatly improved economy.

Remember the 1990s? The Clinton White House took credit, perhaps deserved, for the boom times that only stumbled during the tech bubble of 2000-2001, and crashed as a result of 9/11, after Clinton’s watch.

But, they were good economic times, when essentially anyone who wanted a job could find one. Even the anyones who grew up in marginal conditions in fatherless households, where the most admirable role model might be the neighborhood’s bling-encrusted drug lord. In bad times, such drug-daddies are the employers of last resort in such environs. Such careers are often violent, extraordinarily dangerous and short.

In good times, there are usually conventional jobs for civilians, with predictable paychecks and regular hours where the dangers are usually limited to slick factory floors, carpal tunnel syndrome, or commuter-clogged highways.

Now faithful reader might recall another explanation for the diminished crime rate of the 1990s, presented by a University of Chicago economist, Steven Levitt, who later became even more famous for the publishing phenomenon of 2005: Freakonomics.

You see where I’m going, right? The headline tipped it off. Can’t avoid noticing that the economy has taken a severe hit, especially in the past several months.

Guys who had decent, if low-paying jobs in factories might have lost them to even lower paid factory workers in Sichuan or Vietnam.

High school dropouts, never anyone’s first choice for hire, are congregating on corners again. Can there be any wonder why crime statistics are climbing?

All of the bureaucratic and procedural overhauls in Bill Bratton’s manual (and Supt. Weis has replaced most of his direct reports in his first 100 days in the position) are not going to prevent the exurban (2-hours commute each way) metal-bending shop making cheap lawn furniture from closing its doors and putting its marginally employable janitors and day laborers back on the mean street corners.

And then back into the crime statistics.

As a lifelong resident of one of Chicago’s near suburbs, I wish Jody Weis well, for all of our sakes.

But history seems to be telling us that the best cure for violent crime isn’t more, better led policing. The best cure for violent crime isn’t to build more prisons (although this is, regrettably, one of the U.S.’s few growth industries).

The absolute best cure for violent crime is to put the people who want to work (and call me the un-MUDGE tonight, but I firmly believe that, give most people a chance and they’ll pick low-paid but honest and safe most of the time) to work.

There’s a country to rebuild, after all. Good, honest work for anyone who wants it. Then, watch the violent crime statistics plummet.

It’s it for now. Thanks,


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2 Responses to mm381: Crime’s up. Economy’s down. Next question?

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