Why Chicago Is Under Fire

For the greater part of this year the city of Chicago has been under the national spotlight over its skyrocketing homicide rate. Within the first three months of 2012 homicides were up 66% in Chicago. This year Chicago has had the highest murder rate amongst Alpha world cities with 19.4 murders per 100,000. This rate is more then New York (6.0) and more than Los Angeles (7.5), and ahead of Mexico City, Moscow, and São Paulo. As mayor Rahm Emanuel struggled to get a grip on the rise in crime he reverted to the age old solution of more policing. On August 31st Rahm Emanuel and police superintendent Garry McCarthy steped it up a notch by calling for federal assistance to help in the fight against the wave of crime and violence that has taken hold of the city. The federal assistance consists of U.S. Marshals, FBI agents, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The Mayor and superintendent’s plans for the federal assistance is to concentrate on the neighborhoods that have been hit the hardest this year by homicides. “The help comes in the form of additional agents to target guns, gangs and drugs,” Superintendent McCarthy stated at the conferences.

While the mayor sends federal agents out to Chicago’s hardest hit neighborhoods he continues to neglect the fact that these are temporary solutions to the symptoms of a greater problem, poverty. This is a fact that is not just neglected by Mayor Rahm Emanuel but by all media and governmental officials. Time and time again the problem of crime and violence is thrown on gangs and drugs. It is also common to hear dismissive terms such as “senseless violence” as if to say the homicides in Chicago are happening just because or without reason. But there is a cause and it’s not gangs and drugs but poverty and where there is poverty you will obviously find scarcity (lack of resource). Failure to recognize this fact is detrimental to human society because it presupposes that there are no borderline causes for peoples actions. Hence in the case of crime in America and around the world, punishment is the only solution presented when dealing with aberrant behavior.  It would profit mayor Rahm Emanuel far more to take a team of behavioral scientist to the hardest hit neighborhoods in Chicago to analyze the conditions which his citizens are living under that produces such behavior as opposed to a team of federal agents.  As obvious as 1+1=2, it is equally as obvious that poverty + scarcity = violence or in the case of Chicago homicide.

Looking at the public health statistic in the city of Chicago’s data portal you will find that the numbers in regards to poverty and homicide are consistent.

Top Three Impoverished Chicago Neighborhoods

  • Riverdale, 61% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,000) 37
  • Fuller Park, 56% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,000) 63
  • Englewood, 42% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,00) 48

If you reverse the numbers you will see little to no homicides in the neighborhoods with the lowest poverty rates.

Top Three Least Impoverished Neighborhoods

  • Mount Greenwood, 3% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,00) 2
  • Edison Park, 5% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,00) 0
  • Beverly, 5% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,00) 5

These statics are just a glimpse into what scientific studies have proven for decades and that is humans are products of there environment. No matter where you go in the world, from Compton to the Upper East Side of Manhattan or from the United States to Africa you will find these statics to be true. As long as we continue to pretend that crime is a result of people being lazy and not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps then crime will never be reduced in a significant way.

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We Just Got A Little More Civilized… Just A Little

June 25, 2012 will forever mark the day in U.S. history when we took another very small step towards becoming civilized. On this day the Supreme Court ruled, in a close 5-4 decision, that mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, for juveniles, is unconstitutional violating the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. 28 out of 50 U.S. states mandate life terms for murders, which includes those under the age of 18. There are currently 2,500 inmates who are serving life sentences for crimes they committed when they were juveniles. 2,000 of those sentences were imposed because they were mandated by legislature, according to the Associated Press. Those Supreme Court Judges in favor of the ruling included Justices Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Kagan. After the ruling Justice Kagan stated.

“Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features — among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences,” Justice Kagan added. “It prevents taking into account the family and home environment that surrounds him — and from which he cannot usually extricate himself — no matter how brutal or dysfunctional.”

(N.Y. Times)

This ruling by the Supreme Court is significant to the effect that it requires, for the first time in U.S. judicial history, the court to apply some factors of the scientific method before sentencing a juvenile. Meaning the court can no longer solely look at the actions of the child and blindly say, you did a bad thing, so that makes you a bad person, lock him up and throw away the key. From here on out the court must consider the age of the child, his environment and life circumstances which brought him to the point where he is today. In essence the court would be getting down to the root causes of the child’s actions. Though this may seem like a big step forward it is actually a very small step do to the fact that the child offenders may be getting a lighter sentence but still won’t be getting the proper rehabilitation necessary to change the child’s physiological state and make him a functioning member of society. In the end the child will still go to jail. Further more, why not implement this ruling in all criminal cases including adults. Is it not better to figure out the root causes of all criminal behavior other than blindly throwing them in jail. But once again it is all in vain if we do implement this ruling yet continue to simply put children and adults in jail, rather than rehabilitating them to become fully functional members of society. As necessary as this ruling was, we’ve clearly still have a long ways to go to becoming a civilized people.