DCentric » Public Safety http://dcentric.wamu.org Race, Class, The District. Wed, 16 May 2012 20:20:35 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Copyright © WAMU The Effect Of Youth Unemployment On Crime http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/the-effect-of-youth-unemployment-on-crime/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/the-effect-of-youth-unemployment-on-crime/#comments Mon, 30 Apr 2012 16:44:39 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15784 Continue reading ]]>

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:

Courtesy of Justice Policy Institute

Youth workers, teachers and activists often point to jobs as a way to keep youth busy and out of trouble. The authors note that not having a job can lead “to feelings of worthlessness, futility and disenfranchisement.”

But preparing young people to get hired is another matter. Although there are quite a number of jobs in the District, more than half require a bachelor’s degree. From the report [PDF]:

For young people from economically depressed areas in D.C., developing survival skills such as avoiding violence, finding a meal, and staying out of trouble may have taken precedence over honing other marketable workforce skills more valuable to employers. As compared to their more advantaged peers who may have received more preparation from their family, school and overall community environment, youth from low-income areas of the District may need additional guidance to meet the expectations of the workplace.

The report includes some recommendations, including matching young people to programs in fields they’re interested in and getting employers to hire young people who have completed job programs, regardless of whether they have criminal records.

We’ve previously explored the impact of high unemployment and communities, finding that it contributes to a cycle of crime. Also, people with criminal records find it very difficult to get hired. About 10 percent of District residents have a criminal record.

http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/the-effect-of-youth-unemployment-on-crime/feed/ 1
Racial Stereotyping: What’s Alcohol Got To Do With It? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/03/racial-stereotyping-whats-alcohol-got-to-do-with-it/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/03/racial-stereotyping-whats-alcohol-got-to-do-with-it/#comments Thu, 29 Mar 2012 16:15:11 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15037 Continue reading ]]>

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Racial stereotyping others is more common among people who’ve been drinking alcohol, but just thinking about alcohol can have the same effect. That’s according to a new study by University of Missouri’s Bruce D. Bartholow, who found that people who saw alcoholic beverage ads were more likely to mistakenly see tools as handguns when associated with black male faces.

This is how the experiment went down: participants were shown a bunch of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink ads. Then they saw pictures of black and white men’s faces for a split second, followed immediately by pictures of handguns and tools. Those who were exposed to the alcohol ads were more likely to exhibit racial bias, by mistakenly identifying the tools as handguns after seeing photos of black male faces. Participants who saw non-alcoholic drink ads didn’t make the same mistake as often. The quick speed of the experiment kept participants from over-thinking their responses.

Bartholow previously conducted a similar experiment in which participants actually drank alcohol. But this new study shows that even thinking about alcohol increases racial bias. Bartholow’s assessment: the mental association with alcohol could be enough for people to subconsciously relax their inhibitions and “allow their behaviors to be more influenced by stereotypes,” according to a news release.

The experiment helps shed some light on which external factors can influence racial stereotyping. There are a number of cases in which unarmed black men have been shot or even killed by people who mistakenly saw the men wielding guns. It’s unclear whether the Trayvon Martin case fits this description, although his shooter did say he shot the unarmed black teen in self-defense. But take the case of Amadou Diallo, who was shot to death in 1999 by plainclothes police officers who said they thought Diallo was pulling a gun. The unarmed 23-year-old African immigrant was actually reaching for his wallet.

http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/03/racial-stereotyping-whats-alcohol-got-to-do-with-it/feed/ 1
Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman And Beyond Black And White http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/03/trayvon-martin-george-zimmerman-and-beyond-black-and-white/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/03/trayvon-martin-george-zimmerman-and-beyond-black-and-white/#comments Tue, 20 Mar 2012 15:28:26 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=14785 Continue reading ]]>

Werth Media / Flickr

A photo of Trayvon Martin appears on a protester's sign during a March 19 rally in Sanford, Fla.

A national debate about racism in the criminal justice system has been reignited by the Feb. 26 killing of an unarmed black teenager in Florida by a non-black man who hasn’t been charged with a crime.

Here’s what happened, according to news reports and newly-released 911 recordings: Trayvon Martin, 17, was walking from a convenience store to his father’s house in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. That’s when Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman, 28, spotted him. Zimmerman called 911, reporting a seeing a suspicious person. “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something,” Zimmerman said to the dispatcher, and began following Martin. A struggle ensued and Martin, unarmed, was fatally shot in the chest. Zimmerman claims self defense and hasn’t been charged with a crime. Federal authorities announced late Monday that they would launch a full-scale criminal investigation following protests over local police’s handling of the case.

The narrative appears to be a sadly familiar one, of seemingly double standards, of little to no punishment when the shooter is white and when the person shot is black. Benjamin Crump, the Martin family’s lawyer, has said that if the roles were reversed and Trayvon Martin was the shooter of a white man, an arrest would have been made immediately.

Orange County Jail

A 2005 photo of George Zimmerman.

But a letter from Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman, to the Orlando Sentinel complicates the narrative. Robert Zimmerman writes that his son, George, is “a Spanish speaking minority.” (He also goes on write that his son has black family members. “The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth,” the letter states.).

Orlando Sentinel reporter Rene Stutzman has been closely following the case and had an exclusive interview with Robert Zimmerman. Stutzman tells DCentric that George Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is Hispanic.

Does Zimmerman’s Hispanic heritage change the larger story? Maybe not, but it does demonstrate that America’s longstanding black-white debates about racism have been complicated by the country’s shifting demographics. Racial identity for Hispanics is much more fluid than for other groups. Many Hispanic immigrants feel they are accepted as white by larger society, but those with darker complexions still face plenty of discrimination, according to a 2010 American Sociological Association report. In other words, a light skinned Hispanic, such as Zimmerman, may be treated as a white man by larger society, while a darker Hispanic may be treated as black. And when it comes to racial profiling, anyone can discriminate against anyone else. A person can even be sued for racially discriminating against another person of the same race.

In the end, no matter how many debates about race this case spurs, one thing won’t change: a teenager who was carrying little more than a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea is dead. And for now, a community is torn apart as so many questions remain unanswered.

http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/03/trayvon-martin-george-zimmerman-and-beyond-black-and-white/feed/ 157
Report: Fixing Education Disparities Is a Public Safety Strategy http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/report-fixing-education-disparities-is-a-public-safety-strategy/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/report-fixing-education-disparities-is-a-public-safety-strategy/#comments Wed, 15 Feb 2012 15:31:08 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=14097 Continue reading ]]>

Chris Hondros / Getty/Newsmakers

Focusing on educational disparities in the District would help reduce crime, according to a report issued today by D.C. think tank Justice Policy Institute. According to the report, D.C.’s high school dropouts are more likely to have prison records. It went on to show that states that have increased the money they spend on higher education have also seen their violent crime rates decline.

The think tank, whose mission is to reduce the incarceration rate, recommends spending more money on parks, mentoring and schools and less money on courts and policing. They also recommend revising school policies to keep kids in school.

Researchers found the same stark disparities we’ve examined when it comes to education levels in D.C.’s wards; for instance, one-fifth of Ward 8 adults haven’t completed high school. But the report also breaks down formal education levels of D.C.’s adults by race. Nearly all white adults in D.C. — 99 percent of them — have a high school diploma or higher. For African Americans, 80 percent of adults have completed high school, while 57 percent of Hispanic adults have high school diplomas.

Education Levels by Race in D.C.
*Source: Justice Policy Institute

“At the same time that communities of color face the greatest barriers in education in Washington, D.C.,” the report’s authors write, “they are also disproportionately held in D.C.’s jails and under the supervision of the Department of Youth and Rehabilitative Services (DYRS).” More than 52 percent of D.C.’s black adults without high school diplomas have criminal records. Half of the juvenile offenders under DYRS supervision in 2011 were from predominately black Wards 7 and 8.

Why do students drop out? WAMU 88.5′s Kavitha Cardoza has been examining D.C.’s dropout crisis, reporting that “students don’t drop out of school for any one reason. It’s usually a complicated mix, including individual traits, home life as well as school and neighborhood characteristics.” The top reasons dropouts said they left school include: classes were not interesting; missing too many school days and being unable to catch up; spending time with people who were not interested in school; having too much freedom and not enough rules in their lives; and failing in school.


http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/report-fixing-education-disparities-is-a-public-safety-strategy/feed/ 0
‘Avoid the Ghetto’ App and Pegging Neighborhoods as Dangerous http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/avoid-the-ghetto-app-and-pegging-neighborhoods-as-dangerous/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/avoid-the-ghetto-app-and-pegging-neighborhoods-as-dangerous/#comments Fri, 27 Jan 2012 13:00:20 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13690 Continue reading ]]>

Alpha / Flickr

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.

Wellford says there is a “triangle” used to explain most crime: how motivated an offender is, the vulnerability of victims and the “absence of guardianship.” That last point refers to low police presence or having few people around. If an app tells pedestrians to avoid an area, it could potentially mean fewer eyes on the street, making it easier for people to commit crimes.

The other issue has to do with the types of crime. Pedestrians should be interested in the types of crimes that affect them. Victims of armed robberies don’t usually know their assailants, and robberies often happen outdoors, Wellford says. But victims of homicides, sexual assaults and aggravated assaults tend to know their assailants, and such crimes typically happen indoors. Not always, “but a substantial number,” Wellford says.

D.C.’s first and third police districts led the city in total number of crimes, according to 2009 Metropolitan Police Department statistics. Those districts include communities such as downtown, Logan Circle, U Street and Adams Morgan, areas with high concentrations of residents and businesses. The third district also leads the city in robberies. The seventh district, which includes Wards 7 and 8*, has the most homicides. So which areas are “most dangerous,” and for whom?

Figuring out if an area or block feels dangerous can be based on a number of things: personal experience, a gut feeling, stereotypes. Wellford says if the app does provide accurate information, it could be useful in helping people decide whether they want to adjust their behavior, such as walking down a different road.

In the end, such micro-decisions about safety are highly personal. One person may feel safe walking down the street at night in Columbia Heights or Anacostia, while another person wouldn’t. So should you allow an app to change your mind, or is it just a useful tool giving you a suggestion?

*This post originally stated the police department’s seventh district includes Ward 7; it’s in the department’s sixth district.

http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/avoid-the-ghetto-app-and-pegging-neighborhoods-as-dangerous/feed/ 6
Is Gentrification Really Why D.C. Has Fewer Murders? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/is-gentrification-really-why-d-c-has-fewer-murders/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/is-gentrification-really-why-d-c-has-fewer-murders/#comments Thu, 12 Jan 2012 15:12:30 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13150 Continue reading ]]>

Brandon Anderson / Flickr

D.C. was once called “Murder Capital.” In 1991, at the height of the crack epidemic, 479 people were murdered. But the end of 2011 brought good news: the number of homicides in D.C. had reached a 50-year low. The Washington Post reported that meanwhile, Prince George’s County experienced a slight increase in its number of murders, and that D.C.’s poorer residents moving into the county have taken neighborhood disputes and other issues with them, contributing to the uptick in crime.

Given the city’s demographic changes, a number of people are pointing to one reason in particular: gentrification. The narrative seems logical enough: violent crime tends to be higher in poorer neighborhoods, and demographic changes have left D.C. a wealthier city. That may make sense in D.C. neighborhoods where there has been gentrification. But it doesn’t fit when examining District communities that have historically had the most homicides and the highest poverty rates.

Since 1990, the percentage of people living in poverty has remained relatively stable or slightly increased in the east of the Anacostia River communities, places which also experienced the biggest recent decreases in murders. The number of murders dropped by 55 percent in 2011 in the police’s 7th District, where more than one-third of people live below the poverty line, according to census estimates. In 1990, about 28 percent of residents there were impoverished.

In recent decades, many people moving out of east of the river communities settled in Prince George’s County. But those individuals who were moving weren’t the poorest people in their communities, and they didn’t leave because of gentrification, according to demographer Roderick J. Harrison. Many moved to the suburbs because they could afford to and they were getting more for their money further away from the city.

What does explain the drop in murders east of the river? For one, violent crime nationwide is on the decline, and the exact reasons aren’t fully known.

“I don’t think anybody can say exactly what it is,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says of dropping crime in D.C. “But I disagree that the demographics and the economic development is solely responsible. I think it contributes to our overall fight of crime but it is just one of many, many things.”

She continues: “East of the river is where we’ve seen the most success and there’s been very little [demographic or economic] change in that area of the city.”

Chief Lanier does cite a few reasons she believes contributed to the drop in of east of the river murders: a more coordinated policing effort; the addition of 100 patrol officers to those communities; and almost all of the Metropolitan Police Department’s specialty units focusing on violent crimes and offenders in the department’s 7th District.

“The other thing that I think is 50 percent responsible is that the community over there has been absolutely tremendous in terms of working with police,” Chief Lanier says. “That has historically not been the case. We had to go out there and really build relationships with people in the neighborhood. They have to trust us.”

http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/is-gentrification-really-why-d-c-has-fewer-murders/feed/ 6