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Williams: The black community and crime

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The FBI reported that the total number of homicides in 2015 was 15,696. Blacks were about 52 percent of homicide victims. That means about 8,100 black lives were ended violently, and over 90 percent of the time, the perpetrator was another black. Listening to the news media and the Black Lives Matter movement, one would think that black deaths at the hands of police are the major problem.

It turns out that in 2015, police across the nation shot and killed 986 people. Of that number, 495 were white (50 percent), 258 were black (26 percent) and 172 Hispanic (17 percent). A study of 2,699 fatal police killings between 2013 and 2015, conducted by John R. Lott Jr. and Carlisle E. Moody of the Crime Prevention Research Center, demonstrates that the odds of a black suspect's being killed by a black police officer were consistently greater than a black suspect's getting killed by a white officer. Politicians, race hustlers and the news media keep such studies under wraps because these studies don't help their narrative about racist cops.

The homicide victim is not the only victim, whether he is a criminal or not, for there are mourning loved ones. No one ever fully recovers from having a son, daughter, husband, mother or father murdered. Murder is not the only crime that takes a heavy toll on the black community. Blacks are disproportionately represented as victims in every category of violent crime: forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

Today's level of lawlessness and insecurity in many black communities is a relatively new phenomenon. What changed everything was the liberal vision that blamed crime on poverty and racial discrimination. Academic liberals and hustling politicians told us that to deal with crime, we had to deal with those "root causes." Plus, courts began granting criminals new rights that caused murder and other violent crime rates to skyrocket. The liberals' argument ignores the fact that there was far greater civility in black neighborhoods at a time when there was far greater poverty and discrimination.

The presence of criminals, having driven many businesses out, forces residents to bear the costs of shopping outside their neighborhoods. Fearing robberies, taxi drivers — including black drivers — often refuse to do home pickups in black neighborhoods and frequently pass up black customers hailing them. Plus, there's the insult associated with not being able to receive pizza or other deliveries on the same terms as people in other neighborhoods.

In low-crime neighborhoods, FedEx, UPS and other delivery companies routinely leave packages that contain valuable merchandise on a doorstep, saving the expense of redelivery or recipients from having to pick up the packages. In low-crime communities, supermarket managers may leave plants, fertilizer and other home and garden items outdoors, often unattended and overnight. Where there is less honesty, supermarkets cannot use all the space that they lease, and hence they are less profitable. In high-crime neighborhoods, delivery companies leaving packages at the door and supermarkets leaving goods outside unattended would be equivalent to economic suicide.

Politicians who call for law and order are often viewed negatively, but poor people are the most dependent on law and order. In the face of high crime or social disorder, wealthier people can afford to purchase alarm systems, buy guard dogs, hire guards and, if things get too bad, move to a gated community. These options are not available to poor people. The only protection they have is an orderly society.

Ultimately, the solution to high crime rests with black people. Given the current political environment, it doesn't pay a black or white politician to take those steps necessary to crack down on lawlessness in black communities.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.


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