The Effect Of Youth Unemployment On Crime

puamelia / Flickr

Reducing unemployment among D.C.’s young people will help reduce crime, according to a new report by D.C. think tank Justice Policy Institute.

The group, whose mission is to lower the incarceration rate, found that neighborhoods with high crime rates also have high unemployment rates, particularly among young people. A previous report found a similar connection between boosting education levels and public safety.

D.C. has an unemployment disparity, in which joblessness is very low in wealthy neighborhoods, while low-income neighborhoods have Depression-era unemployment rates. The Justice Policy Institute report also showed how unemployment is chronically high in places with a lot of crime:

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‘Avoid the Ghetto’ App and Pegging Neighborhoods as Dangerous

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Critics have dubbed a feature for GPS tools that would direct pedestrians to take alternate routes based on crime and demographic data the “Avoid the Ghetto” app. They say it could redirect people away from low-income or minority neighborhoods, or reinforce stereotypes about such areas. Others say the app makes GPS devices more intelligent by giving people useful information.

According to Microsoft’s patent for the app, which was approved last month, pedestrian routes can be calculated relying on demographic and violent crime data, among other things. The potential result: a pedestrian would be directed to walk a route where violent crime falls below a certain threshold, according to the patent.

Dubbing neighborhoods as “dangerous” can be tricky. Calculating the probability that you’ll be the victim of a crime is actually quite difficult, University of Maryland criminology professor Charles Wellford says. For one, it’s most useful when examined by block, not by an entire neighborhood. That’s because crime is highly localized, partially having to do with the conditions of specific locations, he says. However, calculating an accurate probability by block is difficult because it’s affected by how many people travel there, not just by who lives there.

For example, downtown D.C.’s population swells during the day as commuters increase the city’s daytime population by 73 percent. Is the probability that you’ll be the victim of a crime in downtown D.C. based based on how many people live there? The app patent is unclear on how it would take that into account. Wellford cites another example: he says the “most dangerous” place in San Francisco last weekend was Candlestick Park, where the New York Giants played the San Francisco 49ers.

“Any city that has an NFL team, the day they play at home, there’s a lot of crime around and within the stadium,” he said.

The app could potentially tell you to avoid that area. Depending how the data is used, the app can “paint pictures of communities that aren’t useful or accurate,” Wellford says.

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Why Crime is High Where Housing Voucher Users Live

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Typically when there’s a move to provide more affordable housing in a neighborhood, some existing residents rail against it. One of their main concerns: people using housing vouchers, or government subsidies to pay rent, bring crime.

Yes, crime rates do tend to be higher in neighborhoods where many people use housing vouchers. But it’s not because those individuals increase crime — it’s because they move into neighborhoods where crime is already increasing, according to a recent study [PDF].

Researchers at New York University’s Wagner School and Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy examined the relationship between housing vouchers and crime in ten U.S. cities, including D.C. Their evidence shows that people using vouchers choose to live in neighborhoods where crime is high and rising.

That may be due to a number of reasons. As crime increases, vacancies increase and rents drop, meaning landlords may be more willing to take people using housing vouchers. Also, voucher holders can only live in neighborhoods with affordable rental housing, “and they may only know about—or feel comfortable pursuing—a certain set of those neighborhoods, given their networks of social and family ties,” the study’s authors note.

More than 11,000 D.C. families use housing vouchers. The D.C. Housing Authority launched an initiative this summer, Beyond the Voucher, to help such families dispel the negative stereotypes often associated with housing voucher holders.

Fraudulent Fundraising for a Good Cause

Flickr: Images_of_Money

Blogger Mari of “In Shaw” alerts us to a possible scam:

There is a scam going on where a youth will knock on the door of a resident and ask for money for…the Eastern Branch Boys & Girls Club, which has been closed for 5 years. As far as I can tell minors are not supposed to do any fundraising of this sort (going door to door, going on the Metro, etc) for the Boys & Girls Club.

Unfortunately there wasn’t any guidance on what to do when one encounters one of these youths.

The Eastern branch has been closed for five years, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Gigi Ransom confirmed on the MPD-5D listserv, an email list hosted by MPD to alert subscribers to news and information for the fifth police district.

“Report it as a crime. Call 311 and report it, like any other crime,” said Sgt. Raul Mendez, public information officer for the police department. He added that having a description of the kids and where they are targeting people for donations would be helpful.

“But when they approach you, ask them for identification, a call-back number, something official” and give the information to police, Mendez said. The documents could be fake, in which case police would consider that fraud.

“Lazy Policing” and a Hate Crime in Columbia Heights: Your Take

Flickr: aliciagriffin

Columbia Heights Metro, as seen from 14th Street NW.

There are some lessons that can be learned from an incident late last month when five women were assaulted by two men near the Columbia Heights Metro, according to observers. Originally, the men were flirtatious, but when one of the women identified another as her partner, the men shouted homophobic slurs, then physically attacked them.

Chai Shenoy of Holla Back DC noted that it was a bystander who called police. “Kudos,” Shenoy said. “Community engagement is key to creating safe spaces in DC.”

She said Police Chief Cathy Lanier was smart to send a strong signal by investigating the police officers who were involved.

Shenoy said that’s key “with the increase of gender-based crimes happening in the LGBTQ community.”

D.C. residents used social media to air their concerns about the case:

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Weed Arrests and Racial Disparities

Torben Hansen / Flickr

Racial disparities in drug enforcement are well-documented. Today, Washington City Paper‘s Rend Smith digs into how this plays out in the District, where black residents are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.

Smith writes about the common notion that white people tend to buy and smoke marijuana inside their homes, as opposed to African Americans who deal and smoke outside more frequently:

Court records for some of those arrested east of the river back that belief up. They describe vice officers spotting suspects engaging in open-air blazing or buying from street corner dealers. One subject “was walking down the street smoking a brown cigar” when cops spotted him. The recklessness involved would seem to disqualify disparate rates of marijuana arrests in the city as a civil rights issue: Black smokers are choosing to be flagrant about their pot use and so attracting the attention of cops who have no choice but to grab them.

But even if assumptions about smoking and dealing habits are solid, that doesn’t mean there’s no problem with the way marijuana laws are currently being enforced in black and white neighborhoods. Taking my own experience as an African American who grew up poor into account, I remember some family and friends who puffed outside—whether that involved a pack of Kools or a joint meticulously sculpted from Top rolling papers—out of respect for others in their household, particularly where there was more than one generation (and therefore more than one set of moral values) under one roof. Dealing inside the house would have been all the more inappropriate. Although that’s certainly not the situation for every black person who tokes up or does a hand-off in Ward 7 or Ward 8, the idea is that you can’t just assume they’re being belligerent, and therefore asking for repercussions.

The problem becomes even more pronounced in D.C., given the city’s high incarceration rate (fourth in the nation, when compared to states). Marijuana possession can land you six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

Latinos Present Opportunities for Crime in Columbia Heights

Flickr via blahmni

Fiesta D.C. 2010, Mount Pleasant

D.C. Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes says that the Metropolitan Police Department is facing “challenges” in and around Columbia Heights, where Latino immigrants are often the targets of a growing number of robberies and assaults:

The reason? “I think people realize they might be carrying cash, also they might not report it to police, so I think they become victims of crime more than others…they present a unique opportunity,.” Groomes said.

The area, which law enforcement call Police Service Area 302, is bordered by 16th Street NW, Harvard Street NW and Park Place NW, and it’s 31 percent Hispanic. Groomes characterized the incidents as crimes of opportunity, not hate crimes.

Didier Sinisterra, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Latino Affairs confirmed that the office is working with police to provide information to Latino residents on protecting themselves. .

“We have identified three key locations where we will be doing local outreach to inform people and hand out additional information: Spring Road, Mount Pleasant St and Columbia Heights.”

According to Sinisterra, the outreach efforts received a positive response. “We engage our community, go into local businesses. We let people know about the situation and we encourage them not to carry a lot of cash. We chose Friday because that is when a lot of Latinos get paid.”

OLA is also encouraging people to open bank accounts, so that they aren’t carrying large amounts of cash. This week, they will be in Mount Pleasant on Friday, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Josie Rizo, who works on the 1400 block of Irving St NW isn’t concerned. “So far nothing has happened and I’ve been working here for a year now,” she said, adding that she would go to the police if she is targeted by a crime. “I feel pretty safe…In this area especially, there are a lot of people walking around, so that helps.”

Homicide Rate in D.C. Dropping, but Racial Disparity Still Large

Flickr: Tony Webster

D.C.’s homicide rate is dropping, but blacks are still disproportionately affected, according to Metropolitan Police Department statistics. Greater Greater Washington reports:

D.C.’s black homicide figures are still much higher than comparable rates at the national level. In fact, on a per resident basis, blacks in the District face over double the homicide rate as blacks in the nation as a whole.

There were 1.3 homicides per every 100,000 white D.C. residents in 2010, the same year that saw 37.7 homicides per every 100,000 black D.C. residents.

Homicide Watch D.C. editor Laura Amico, whose mission is to document every homicide in the District, wrote in a GGW comment:

It is so tragic to add victim photo after victim photo to the albums and see young black man after young black man (with some exceptions). Sit through court and you see much the same parade. The one thing that becomes so clear is that in homicides, there are so many more victims than just those that are killed. All the families and so many friends, of both victims and defendants, are impacted and affected by the deaths, too.

Communities are affected by violence in multiple ways. Take health: violence, or even the perception of violence, can prevent young and old alike from being physically active, as we’ve previously noted:

Obesity rates are higher in Wards 6, 7 and 8 than elsewhere in the city. Ward 8, which has the highest homicide rate, also has the lowest physical activity rate. According to D.C.’s Overweight and Obesity Action Plan, 15 percent of all deaths in the District are a result of obesity. But in some parts of the District, the fear of getting shot while walking in your neighborhood can trump the more subtle reality of dying from an obesity-related illness.

Update on Easter Monday Stabbing at Zoo

Flickr: Smithsonian’s National Zoo

The crowd reached 25,000 at the National Zoo yesterday, on Easter Monday.

Mshairi Alkebular, the 16-year old who allegedly stabbed another teen during Easter Monday celebrations at the National Zoo yesterday will be charged as an adult, according to WUSA9:

Charging documents show the victim identified (Alkebular) by photo.

According to charging documents, the victim said he was stabbed twice in the right elbow area by Alkebular inside the National Zoo and police broke up the fight.

Then, according to documents, Alkebular and others exited the zoo and chased McNeal again. Alkebular allegedly stabbed him four more times in the chest.

African American families have been visiting the National Zoo on the day after Easter for over a century. WUSA’s Bruce Johnson said that the victim is 14-years old and is now in stable condition. NBC reported that the attack was gang-related.

Teen Stabbed at Zoo’s Easter Monday Celebration

A teenager was stabbed today at the National Zoo, on Easter Monday, a day traditionally celebrated by African American families:

Update - stabbing - 2900 blk Connecticut av NW - EMS transporting - 1 teenage male - priority 1 - serious, potentially life-threatening

According to this report, the boy was wounded several times. A similar incident occurred on Easter Monday in 2000, when seven young people were shot.

The tradition of celebrating Easter a day late at the zoo originated over a century ago:

The free gathering, which dates back to the 1890s, almost as far as the White House Easter Egg Roll. Oral history says that black domestic workers were required to work on Easter Sunday, so Monday was the day of family celebration. And since the White House in those segregated days either didn’t allow or strongly discouraged African-Americans at its egg roll, the District’s black residents created their own.