Murder in Urban America

I’ve just started a regular gig blogging for Next City (formerly Next American City). Nothing major, just a couple posts a month, but I’m excited to have a regular outlet.

My first post went up yesterday, and it is about the contrasting homicide numbers out of New York and D.C. on the one hand (lowest murder rates ever) and Philly and Chicago on the other (lower than the early 1990s, but still disturbingly high). Race and the intense segregation of African-American communities is clearly at the root of many urban murders. This isn’t an original observation, but it is worth repeating because the results are so horrific and so precisely focused one segment of the population.

As Alex Ihnen , a blogger with Next St. Louis, shows: “567 homicides [in St. Louis] from 2008 to 2011…502 are listed as black, while 64 were white…In a city that’s very nearly 50/50 black/white.” As my friend Jesse Kudler noted on Facebook, “Around 75% of homicide victims in Philadelphia are black…but less than 45% of the population is.” Notice any common denominators in the  D.C. Homicide Watch’s list of victims?

These numbers are staggering. I’m formulating my thoughts on this for a longer post. But for the time being, I want to focus on the near total lack of opportunity in many inner-city majority African American neighborhoods. From my post:

“You have whole swaths of the city that are cut off from really meaningfully labor opportunities, people who are not going to be embraced by the new economy,” said Jeff Deeney, a Philly social worker who works with young adults in the criminal justice system. A recent report showed a mere four jobs per square acre in Philadelphia neighborhoods, while a revitalized Center City offers 129 jobs per square acre. Meanwhile, 39 percent of Center City residents have an advanced degree (10.9 percent of Americans have an advanced degree).

“A lot of the kids I work with are on the cusp of whether or not they are going to pick up a gun,” Deeney said. “The thing that would draw them out of that would be to… start building some job skills, and get some employment.”

“Every single one of my clients asks me at some point…’can you get me a job?’ And the answer is no. I can’t. I do not have somewhere that I can readily refer them that would give a taste of the legitimate work that would be meaningful and valuable to them.”

This entry was posted in economic justice, national politics, Philadelphia, public health and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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