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What Do the Ten Most Dangerous Cities in America Have in Common?
Marketwatch posted a piece today listing the American cities where violent crime is most prevalent. The worst of the lot is Detroit, which was, 65 years ago, the wealthiest city per capita in the United States. Then comes Oakland, Memphis, St. Louis, Cleveland, Little Rock, Baltimore, Rockford in Illinois, Milwaukee, and Birmingham in Alabama.
The piece is an honest attempt to find what unites these cities. But it is skewed by its trust in the standard liberal cliches. So after specifying the crime rate, the population of the city, and the number of murders in 2013, it specifies the poverty rate — as if to imply that poverty is “the root cause” of crime. No other common denominator is mentioned.
And yet, apart from poverty, there is one other common characteristic uniting these communities — a characteristic that we are not allowed to talk about.
Early on in his tenure, Eric Holder called for a national conversation about race and he described us as “a nation of cowards.” Although I doubt very much whether he in particular could stomach a genuinely frank conversation on this subject, I do believe that he is right that we as a people are afraid to speak up — and I regard this as a serious defect, for it prevents our even thinking about how we might address a grave problem.
The truth is simple and sad. While violent crime is by no means restricted to inner-city African-American neighborhoods, it is more prevalent there than anywhere else.
We have been treated in the last couple of years to astonishing nonsense concerning the “rape culture” that is supposedly pervasive on America’s campuses — when the statistics based on crimes reported to the police suggest that rape is exceedingly rare at our universities and exceedingly common in inner-city black neighborhoods. If our President and his Attorney General really cared about the mistreatment of women, these neighborhoods would be their focus.
If we were to have an honest national conversation on race or, for that matter, on rape, we would have to attend to the near collapse of the black family, to the fact that only 17% of African-American teenagers aged 15 to 17 live in a family where both parents are present, and to the impact this has on the likelihood that young black men will turn to crime. If Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown were victimized, it was not by the likes of George Zimmerman or Darren Wilson. It was by parents who did not stay together and keep their sons on the straight and narrow.
This really is a serious problem — and it is much more of a problem for ordinary African-Americans than it is for white men such as myself. For by and large black people are the ones who are victimized. They live in the dangerous neighborhoods. They are the ones threatened by violent crime. They are the ones most apt to be raped.
One would think that, with a black President and a black Attorney General, we would be witnessing an attempt to think through this problem and to deal with it. But in the last six years, neither Barack Obama nor Eric Holder has said a word on the subject.
The problem, they imply, is white racism. The problem is poverty and oppression. Never do they ask whether the poverty might not be a symptom — a function of family breakdown. Never do they tell us how it can be the case that white people are to blame for black-on-black crime.
I do not doubt that something needs to be done. I feel for the young people who grow up in such neighborhoods, who are drawn into criminal activity, or who suffer violent attack.
But before one can deal with a problem, one has to do what Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and the party they represent resolutely refuse to do — which is to admit that there is a problem and to acknowledge that it is due to patterns of conduct endemic in such neighborhoods and not to anything done or not done, said or not said by white Americans as such.
It would, for example, be good to begin by admitting that these neighborhoods need rigorous policing on a scale not elsewhere required. If whites have failed blacks in these 10 cities, it is in part because the Democratic machines that control each and every one of them have left African-American neighborhoods in considerable measure unpoliced.
Rigorous policing of the very sort now under attack in New York and elsewhere would be a good beginning. But unless something can be done to promote family formation and family stability, it will, I fear, be of little avail.
The sad truth is that the black family was once in far better shape. What we are witnessing is not the legacy of slavery. It is the legacy of patterns of conducted promoted by the social welfare programs created by the New Deal, which rewarded women for becoming single mothers.
How — and even whether — this development can be reversed is a puzzle, and it needs addressing. It is arguably our greatest social problem — for it is by no means limited to inner-city African-American neighborhoods, and it is gradually becoming prevalent among every ethnic population in the land. At the moment, only 54% of white teenagers aged 15 to 17 live in families where both parents are present, and that is an all-time low.Published in General
I think the title of this post is a bit rhetorical because you have so astutely answered your own question!
To put it more bluntly, “going on the check” has become a viable lifestyle choice.
Paul Rahe: erudition, graceful prose–and sheer gutsiness.
Yet again, Paul, thanks.
I think it is unfair to Trayvon Martin to group him with Michael Brown. Michael Brown assaulted an officer on his way home after a robbery. Trayvon was shot in an altercation (of uncertain origin) on the way to his fathers house by a wanabee-cop. The matters of the case remained inconclusive enough to prevent conviction of Mr. Zimmerman, under the heavy burden of murder, not in fact to prove his innocence, or Trayvon’s guilt. What can be said of Mr. Zimmerman’s upbringing?
Further to the point while I know on our side we love to talk about the family and its impact, and always in these cases of crime we trot out the same numbers about the “black family”, I would like to point out that back in days when these numbers where higher so too was the murder rate. You draw lines between dots heedlessly. Cities suffer high murder and violence rates much more directly because of bad policing and incompetent government. I am sure the “black family” in New York city is worse off now than it has ever been (by standards of integrity) yet its crime rate is also the lowest? I would say good government practices are of much avail.
(I thought Camden, NJ, which I live near, was certainly in the top ten) Anyway, it was ironically a liberal Democratic senator (and sociologist) named Moynihan who warned of this problem roughly 50 years ago. What a tragedy that his own party didn’t heed his warning.
Dr. Rahe’s observations (astute as always) bring to mind a formulation of George Gilder’s that says it all, though I’m paraphrasing: You can build a welfare state for the women and children, but you will need a police state for the men.
These 10 cities could serve as Exhibits A-J as proof of the welfare/police state correlation.
Pointing out the obvious is a dangerous thing to do. Thanks for having the courage to do so. If this had been published as widely as it deserves to be you would be one of the most hated men in America.
I’ve researched this a little bit… there’s more to it, and it gets pretty interesting.
“Violent crimes” can mean all sorts of things, some violent crimes are more violent than others, and they might not be reported or tallied the same way. I believe Chicago’s violent crimes aren’t reported in the FBI statistics as Chicago measures rape differently or some such.
I think murder rate is a much better measurement. Murder is far more definitive and certainly far more unrecoverable than any other violent crime.
The list looks different depending on the what sort of minimum size you want to specify for a city. I think it makes more sense to only include cities with a population larger than, say, 200,000, or 250,000, or so.
Oakland’s numbers should be interpretted differently because it’s effectively an urban suburb of San Francisco and San Jose. (I just made up the term “urban suburb” to describe the situation where there are significantly larger cities very close by.)
Wikipedia presents the official FBI data pretty well:
(Click on the 5th column to sort the cities by murder rate.)
That’s cities over with populations over 250,000. And that supplies a top ten murderous cities list as:
Besides the broken family problem, and multi-generational poverty, there are some other aspects that are prevalent among the most dangerous cities. One is a Democratic party city government. Not just the current mayor, but often uninterupted Democrats for 50 years or so.
(Wikipedia generally makes this easy; click on the cities in the above link, then look for a “List of Mayors” entry on that city’s page and check over the history.)
Another is that the populations of most of these cities are dropping very rapidly.
(Wikipedia also makes this easy; each city page usually has a population history.)
Which means that, basically, these cities keep electing city governments that increase poverty and crime, and the poverty and crime drives out the residents who would vote otherwise.
This phenomenon has been identified as “The Curley Effect” by Harvard economists Edward Glaeser and Andrei Shleifer:
It’s not named after everybody’s favorite Stooge (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk), but rather after James Curley, mayor of Boston from 1913 to 1951.
Thank you for that absolution, Father Paul. I will go and sin no more.
@ TeamAmerica – Please don’t give people any ideas. They might just decide to up and shoot a random white man. My brother lives in Camden, NJ and is trying to make a go of it in a new career.
Would it be inappropriate for me to say, “We’re number one!” while holding up a finger and dancing around?
Of course, rigorous policing can reduce crime. That is a point I make. Deterrence has an impact. But the discipline instilled in teenagers by fathers is that which enables them to get and keep jobs and to advance. There are two obstacles to bad conduct: shame and fear. Shame is instilled in families, and the police can add the fear.
As for Trayvon Martin, he was killed in self-defense. We know plenty about what was going on from the calls made by Zimmerman to the police. We also know plenty about Martin’s love of violence.
The Curley depicted inThe Last Hurrah. He had a son who became a Jesuit, whom I once met.
The problem with your analysis is that you are playing with rules of evidence for a courtroom not real life. In the Zimmerman courtroom, testimony/evidence about Martin’s acts was limited to the immediate events (IMHO improperly). If Martin and Brown had not been involved in the incidents that killed them, and you were asked to evaluate their upbringing and situations, you would look to the criminal records of both. You would look to Martin’s drug use, fighting, facebook posts, etc. and come to the same conclusion as Dr. Rahe.
They doubled down on the racial politics and wasted the great opportunity they had.
That’s who they are.
There is, now that I think of it, another deterrent to violent crime — bitterly cold weather. New York went without a murder for twelve or more days recently. Here in Hillsdale, as I write, it is 12 below.
Yes, indeed. It is a sad business. They had moral authority that they might have employed to help those whom they pretend to care for, and they spent it trying to drive a wedge between black and white.
The core institution of moral education has been set aside by an increasing number of young couples. Their children suffer life long consequences, and our society does as well. How do we reverse this? Charles Murray notes that the rates of marriage are decreasing most dramatically in the most financially and educationally depressed groups. At one time love and marriage were like the song:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRDBvKGc1fE, I’m 67. The beneficaries of this custom were the couple, the children, and society locally and broadly. However no one married inorder to benefit society, it was just the way men and women stepped into adult life. So the problem is that we have people impoverished morally and educationally and materially, who will need resortation in some fashion, and we need to recreate a tradition (marriage) in as a conscious choice. How do we do these things, have they ever been done before?
Democrats cite poverty as the “root cause” of crime. Prof. Rahe cites a rootier cause – the disintegration of the black family. Well done, but I think there is an even rootier cause than that. Lack of values. Lack of appreciation for the value of education. Lack of appreciation for the value of self-reliance. Lack of appreciation for the value of connection with your community. In the worst, most-crime ridden spots, these values have been replaced with a core belief in victimhood, grievance, and entitlement. Such a belief system creates catastrophe wherever it appears. It appears in many places, but it is endemic in much of black America.
And it is this mind set that Obama, Holder, Sharpton and their ilk reinforce at every opportunity. Their greatest sin is not that they ignore the disintegration of the black family. Their greatest sin is that they encourage people, especially black people, to believe that whatever happens to them, “it’s not their fault.” Find someone else to blame. The police department. Racist Republicans. The “Man.” Someone.
This attitude predates the disintegration of the family. It causes the disintegration of the family. It causes poverty. It causes crime. It is the rootiest of root causes. And our “leaders” do nothing but pour kerosene on the fire.
You know–I looked carefully through the article, and what seems to unite those cities is a falling crime rate. I’m more than willing to say anything, however, politically incorrect, but let’s start with even more basic questions than “can liberals talk honestly about race.” No, they can’t, but the antidote is not “lousy criminology.”
Milwaukee? Does anyone naturally think of Milwaukee “like the other cities on this list?” I mean–honest about race means saying, things like, “Paul, you’re a white guy. Milwaukee is a really white place. If you’d asked me to predict which American cities would have the highest violent crime rates based on my sense of the size of their crime-ridden black inner cities, Milwaukee wouldn’t have ranked. I would have come up with, “Detroit, Baltimore, DC, Oakland, New Orleans, Newark, Birmingham,” but wouldn’t instinctively come up with Milwaukee.
1) Are we using the same definitions of violent crime in each of these cities? How exactly does the FBI collect and collate the data? Anyone here know?
2) Does anyone know how they assess the dark figure of crime in these cities? (The dark figure is the difference between crime and recorded crime. If you lose confidence sufficiently in cops and the justice system, you stop reporting crimes, because you don’t think it will do any good. Often cops will fudge the numbers if they think it makes them look better. Homicides are almost always reported, so that’s a very meaningful one to watch–but there are big problems even in analyzing this: we can end up with a lower homicide rate by having better emergency medicine, but that doesn’t mean people are less homicidal, for example.)
3) Are the trendlines going up or down? Do the formal boundaries of these cities match the crime hotspots? How have these changed, and why?
4) Do we have actual data, broken down by race and neighborhood as well as all the other data we’d like to look at if we want to know what causes and fixes violent crime?
I’m pretty data-driven, and willing to say anything about race. I’m not willing to say that Milwaukee just obviously belongs on this list and DC doesn’t, or that what would seem to be falling rates of violent crime should be dismissed–or even taken at face value. That’s bad criminology, not honesty about race.
Question one is how the FBI comes up with these statistics. If we don’t think Holder is honest about race, and if we don’t think the media is, either, it might not make sense to repose our confidence in a Marketwatch slide show about the FBI’s 2013 Uniform Crime Report. I’ll happily take the heat and be known as the most racist woman in America if I can base my argument on something better than “I don’t trust Holder and I’m using his statistics.”
That’s not logical, Captain Kirk.
Excellent post. I have been told (but unable to verify – does anyone have proof of this?) that if you take out African-American crime out of the US statistics, US crime rates are the same as European. That doesn’t mean it’s a racial issue, but it does point to a black sub culture issue. I don’t know if the break down of the black family is a root cause or just correlative, but there is a relationship. Our inner city problems will never get fixed until people are open and honest about this.
The statistics come from local reports to the FBI, and some of them have been fudged. With regard to one city, this is discussed in the Marketwatch article.
As for DC, it is now a majority white city. I have lived there twice. Crime was not much of a problem in Northwest Washington, which was and is white and middle class. It was and is a problem in the poorer black areas. Most of the African Americans who have their act together have moved to the suburbs.
As for Milwaukee, there has been white flight. It is not Oakland, to be sure. You are also right that the murder right might be more telling as an indicator — a point made above on this thread by Don Tillman (#11). His list of cities makes my argument better than the one provided by Marketwatch.
On a side note, this post catalogs the effects of marriage; but not just any kind of marriage. It documents the need for the kind of marriage where parents, especially men, exert a substantial moral influence, and doing so in neighborhoods which maintain that moral influence. It’s not only that we have parents, but that those parents have a job to do, and society depends on them doing it effectively.
If we can understand the Curley effect for the destruction of cities, why can’t we also relate to the lowering of intelligence in that population. It would seem apparent to me that people of lesser intellect would be poorer and less likely to understand and perceive the consequences of violent actions. Of course Charles Murray was excoriated for touching on this in the Bell Curve.
I noticed that. And I reckon it’s not the only one.
Here we have some of the problem with anecdotal evidence, and why it’s catastrophic that we’ve lost any sense of trust in anything being non-partisan. Last I was in Northwest Washington (a bit more than a year ago?) I was hearing, “Don’t walk alone at night.” And the city looked mixed-race to me, but that’s no substitute for solid stats: and I don’t know who has them, or whether anyone even knows how to keep them anymore.
My anecdotal impression was, “This is a disgrace of a capital, how can we let this place look so run down?” Then I had to remind myself that this is in fact why America is different from other empires, and that we don’t make a huge show over the total glory and magnificence of our capital, and this is part of the whole idea behind “not getting into power-worship”–but I swear, I looked at it with bewilderment, until I remembered this was by design, and that the whole point is that we don’t fawn in awe over big displays of power and magnificence.
But that is some very hidden power in Washington, isn’t it. Imagine showing up there and realizing: This is the Seat of the American Empire. I’ve heard about it for so many years … and what? They’re telling me they can’t walk safely … and that I shouldn’t even go for a walk by myself at night? It’s all run down, and it looks so ordinary. Where do they keep the power?
My anecdotal sense–not data–was that NW Washington looked very racially integrated, but weirdly run down. I was shocked that everyone was warning me about crime. I took it seriously, of course, on the grounds that local people worry about things for a reason.
People warned me I might be mugged in front of the Russian Embassy. Yep, really. I was warned of this possibility by black people and white people. That’s not a metaphor (although it sure could be), but it is an amazing thing to consider. A country so free that we don’t keep the Russian Embassy under so much obvious night-and-day surveillance that everyone, of course, feels totally safe walking near it.
I couldn’t figure out whether that was good or bad. But we’re not like other countries, so my conclusion was: good. Let’s keep it that way.
Two points of disagreement.
First, you need only look at the DC metro to see the kind of wasteful spending that can only occur in a capital city that can siphon money from the entire country.
Second, many, if not most, capital cities also serve as a center of private commerce (unlike DC). Much of their grandeur is being directly generated by the local private sector rather than being money siphoned from the rest of the nation.
Claire, you are right that there is diversity in the population of northwest Washington. A fair number of African Americans work for the government and are tolerably well paid. DC has had a black middle class for a very long time. It is quite large now. When I was young, there were black country clubs and tan country clubs (as there were black fraternities and tan fraternities). The tans in DC discriminated against those of a darker hue.
The neighborhood that was really dangerous was Anacostia. I do not know what is the case now. I have not been there in decades.
Good post, Paul.
In the 1970s and 1980s, my family used to drive through Harlem on the way to the bridge on Friday evenings. The streets were mostly deserted. After Guliani’s work took effect, one would see children on bicycles on the streets in the evenings.
I have heard here and there that gangs other criminal elements funnel money to candidates for weaker policing–and the campaign goes in the name of civil rights, and helping minorities!
By the usual American standards, wasn’t the Martin-Zimmerman incident a black on black matter?
As Glenn Reynolds liked to note, Zimmerman is more black than Homer Plessy was.
Actually, the 2010 Census lists Milwaukee as 40% black and 17% hispanic. So Milwaukee is not a “really white place.”
These figures are for the actual City of Milwaukee, not the entire metro area – but that’s true of the other cities listed, as well.
I am so glad you brought up Washington, D.C., and said the word “disgrace.”
I think looking at metropolitan district areas (MDAs) is far more informative than looking at single cities, and I would point to Washington, D.C., as a good example.
I worked on a book by John Prendergast, Unlikely Brothers, that left me in tears about conditions in Washington, D.C. (And I know Prendergast is a nutcase liberal, but . . . I actually worked on both of his books. The first one, The Enough Moment, describes his work in the Sudan. The second was a poignant story about how he had left his “little brother”–John was in the Big Brothers program as a big brother–in Washington, D.C., to travel around the world to fight poverty and suffering. Unlikely Brothers is his poignant apology for traveling the world while his “little brother” was having such difficult time in D.C.)
Our politicians and think tank types are there all the time, with all their brilliant ideas and resources. And no one gets a group of people together to try to help the families in D.C.?
In contrast, the Yale school of architecture students noticed that on the other side of the wall that separated the school from the city was a lot of poverty. The kids got together and helped. Harvard has a residence (Baker House?) in which the students live and devote their energies to helping the inner city kids in Boston and Cambridge.
In D.C., our politicians walk by like the cold-hearted passers-by in the Good Samaritan.
(I’m writing this off the top of my head, so it is short on stats. I just wanted to say I agree with you and thank you for bringing up D.C.)
Great post, two quick observations:
1. I have family in Milwaukee and visit often, it is not a “really white place”. Like most major metropolitan areas the “whites” moved out long ago. It is a very mixed place and the parks have in addition to baseball diamonds, soccer fields and cricket courts that all fill up every weekend.
2. The lack of a father or even father figure in any family unit, black, white, grey, or pink is causing multiple problems. I believe it was Lileks who recently pointed out that the reason so many poor young men are attracted in Islam is the attention they get from the Imams as a default father figure.