A conversation from The Diane Rehm Show archives with world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. In 2007, he talked to Diane about his belief in the power of music to cross borders and bridge backgrounds.
Guest Host: A Martinez
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said that crime is out of control across the nation. Yet many studies indicate U.S. homicide rates are much lower than they were in the 1990s. Several new studies of crime data, however, show that murder rates are rising in dozens of cities. A new analysis compiled from police departments by The New York Times indicates that murder rates rose in 25 of the nation’s 100 largest cities, including Chicago, Cleveland and Baltimore. Guest host A Martinez and a panel of guests discuss why murder rates are rising in some cities and decreasing in others.
- Paul Butler Professor, Georgetown University Law Center; author of the forthcoming book "Chokehold: Policing Black Men"
- Haeyoun Park Graphics editor, New York Times
- Nancy La Vigne Director, the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute
- Jeffrey Ian Ross Criminologist; professor, school of criminal justice, University of Baltimore; author: "Policing Issues: Challenges and Controversies"
MR. A. MARTINEZWelcome back. I'm A. Martinez, co-host of Take Two on Southern California Public Radio, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Homicide rates nationwide are much lower than they were in the 1990s, but a new analysis indicates that murder rates are rising significantly in 25 of the nation's largest cities, including Chicago and Baltimore.
MR. A. MARTINEZWith me in-studio to talk about urban homicide, Nancy La Vigne with the Urban Institute. Nancy, welcome.
MS. NANCY LA VIGNEGreat to be here.
MARTINEZJoining us from a studio in New York, Haeyoun, Haeyoun Park with the New York Times and Paul Butler with Georgetown University Law Center. Hello to both of you.
MS. HAEYOUN PARKHi.
MR. PAUL BUTLERHey, great to be here.
MARTINEZAnd joining us by phone in Baltimore, Jeffrey Ian Ross at the University of Baltimore. Jeffrey, welcome.
MARTINEZHaeyoun, let's start with you. So tell us about some of the new analysis of the homicide data. Murder rates rose significantly in 25 cities in 2015. Tell us more about what you found.
PARKOkay, well we've seen several studies and media reports suggesting that 2015 was a really bad year for violent crime, and there seem to be some questions being raised as to whether a downward trend of crime was reversing. And Donald Trump has said that crime is out of control, and decades of progress in reducing crime are now being reversed. So we wanted to see what was really happening with homicides across the country, and we wanted to take a more systematic approach to figure out what was really going on.
PARKSo we weren't satisfied with looking at year-over-year change because of year-to-year fluctuations with crime data. So we decided to look at change between the average of the previous three years compared with 2015. And we gather the historic data from the FBI, but the 2015 numbers weren't out yet. So we reached out individually to police departments in 100 of the largest cities.
PARKAnd what we found from our research was -- that was pretty unusual was that there was a rising murder rate in the largest proportion of American cities since the early 1990s, at the height of violent crime. In 2015, homicide rates were up in 25 cities, and the last time there was a larger number of cities with a significant rise was when there was -- when there 36 cities in 1991. So that's pretty different from what we've been seeing the recent decade.
PARKRates are still lower than it was in the 1990s, but violence is up in a number of cities, even though it's not soaring across the nation. So when you look at a span of three decades, where the general trend has been that violent crime has been on a continuous downward trend, it's worth exploring why, in some of these cities, the trend is -- went in the opposite direction last year.
MARTINEZAnd what you found confirmed a trend that was recently tracked by the National Institute of Justice, right?
MARTINEZWhat did that study find?
PARKSure, Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, who is a criminologist at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, he explored homicide rates in 56 large cities, and he compared 2014 to 2015, and what he found was that the homicide rate in those cities rose by 17 percent. And the study, which was published this summer in the national -- by the National Institute of Justice, he said that the increase was real and nearly unprecedented. So that, you know, that sort of sparked our interest, as well, in addition to some of the reports that we were seeing in other places.
MARTINEZAnd Nancy, Chicago we've seen just some incredible spikes there, but cities where I'm from, in Los Angeles, not so much. So, you know, what do you make of that?
VIGNEWell, as a criminologist it's really difficult for us because we're very quantitative by nature, and it's a very difficult challenge to identify specific causal relationships, right. But I can speak more generally. Chicago, I would say, and something that we haven't covered yet is the role that guns play in these homicides, and I don't know, Haeyoun, if you looked at this but the percentage of the homicides that were associated with firearms, access to firearms in Chicago and a lot of big cities is all too easy, and there's been interviews with youth who say that they can -- if they need a gun, they can get it in 20 minutes and for under $100. There's other places where...
MARTINEZAnd California has some very restrictive gun laws. So maybe I'm wondering if that accounts for...
VIGNEThat may or may not. Criminals get access to guns through all means, through legitimate means, through, you know, burglaries of houses, so stolen guns are very commonly used in crimes. You know, there's a huge black market, and so, you know, it's hard to discern exactly, you know, how the firearms are coming into play, but definitely access to firearms has to be a big piece of this puzzle.
MARTINEZPaul, what do you make of the -- the information?
BUTLERI was a prosecutor in the 1990s. You want to talk about crime being out of control, we had the crack epidemic, carjacking, burglaries, homicide. If you had told me that by 2016, nationwide, violent crime would be down by half, I wouldn't have believed you. New York had about 3,000 homicides a year. This year it's going to be closer to 300. As a country, we're safer than we've been in the last 50 years. So the cities where crime is going up are outliers.
BUTLERWhat the New York Times found is that in about 70 percent of cities, the crime rate is the same low rate. In some cities, rime is actually down. Now it is up in about 25 percent of cities, but at this point we don't know whether that's a temporary uptick, which we've seen before, or whether it's something more. We just don't know. But again, coming from where I come from as a former prosecutor, I think it's so important to be smart on crime and not let fear or ignorance drive criminal justice policy.
MARTINEZPaul, though, we're not living in the 1990s anymore, so this is a reality. For people that live in Chicago, I mean, they're trying to figure out exactly why this is happening.
BUTLERSo the reality for 75 percent of the people who live in this country is that crime is low, it has been low, and all the indications are that it's going to stay low. You want to talk about Chicago, I was born and raised in Chicago. So there you have this alienation, you have poverty, you have police abuses, and you have widespread availability of guns. That's a combustible mix. You know, you can't talk about violent crime in Chicago without thinking about the policy shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times.
BUTLERYou can think about the city covering that up. You can think about the city paying millions and millions of dollars to settle cases in which the police have exercised violence against citizens. So Chicago has a crisis in under protection of law. African-American citizens are not receiving their fair services from the cops, so it's no wonder they don't cooperate. There's a 20 percent clearance rate, which means that in some neighborhoods in Chicago, if you killing somebody you have an 80 percent chance of not being convicted of a crime.
MARTINEZNancy, is there any consensus at all as to why this is happening in Chicago right now?
VIGNEI don't know of any consensus. I will hearken back to Professor Rick Rosenfeld's study. He did explore a couple hypotheses about why homicides are up in certain cities. He looked at the issue of criminal justice reform. You know, maybe it's because more people have -- are being released from prison, you know, prison populations are down slightly. He rejected that hypothesis.
VIGNEHe also looked at the expansion of urban drug markets associated with the heroin epidemic, which is closely related to the opioid epidemic that we've seen across the country, and he ruled that out, as well. The only potential hypothesis that he zeroed in on is the so-called Ferguson effect, but I want to be very clear here because there's a lot of definitions.
MARTINEZAnd a lot of debate.
VIGNEAnd a lot of debate. But his definition of the Ferguson effect zeroes in on what we would call de-policing, that the police, you know, following events like Ferguson and Ferguson itself, have, you know, reduced their interaction with citizens, leading to fewer arrests and fewer contact with citizens. Of course that can go either way, you know, some of those interactions have led to unfortunate deaths, but the flip side of that is they're also not able to crack down on crime the way they might do otherwise.
MARTINEZWe'll get more into the Ferguson effect coming up in just a bit. I'm sure everyone has an opinion on that one. Jeffrey, when you look at Baltimore, it had a large increase in homicides, do you think looting after the death of Freddie Gray maybe helped lead into the spike in violence?
MR. JEFFREY IAN ROSSA spike in violence? Well, the major reason was the looting of drug stores, and there's an increase of pharmaceuticals on the street. So what happened is that disrupted traditional drug markets. So what you had was new people who came into the game and also networks that were trying to maintain their position. And so in order to maintain their position, they engaged in violence against competitors. So that's what I believe led to that spike.
MR. JEFFREY IAN ROSSWe're seeing a little bit of a continuance of this this year, but homicides are down compared to last year.
MARTINEZSo would that be something that is an isolated kind of thing, where sure, we saw the spike, but then it'll go down?
ROSSI think so. You know, once those drugs are sold off, and once there's consolidation in the markets, it will return to kind of normal -- a normal rate.
MARTINEZHaeyoun, tell us about that part of this because the Drug Enforcement Agency said that hundreds of thousands of drugs were stolen from pharmacies and methadone clinics all over.
PARKThat's right. You know, the Drug Enforcement Administration said that 315,000 doses of drugs were stolen from 27 pharmacies and two methadone clinics during the riots. And, you know, the death of Freddie Gray had set off the city's worst riots since the death of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And, you know, initially the DEA had said that 175 doses were stolen from the pharmacies, but they actually revised that number recently to 315,000.
PARKAnd as, you know, Jeff was saying, some of that was probably, you know, the reason for Baltimore hitting its record high, you know, in terms of homicide rates in 2015.
MARTINEZIs there anything suggesting a number, I don't know if you've been tracking it, like, lately, but where these numbers will or have been going down?
PARKWell, you know, there is a mid-year violent crime survey by the major cities' chief police association that show that while killings were up among about 60 -- generally up among about 60 large cities, they were slightly down in Baltimore. So if the drug theory holds true, you know, the killings in Baltimore might subside this year.
MARTINEZJeffrey, do you think that'll happen?
ROSSI know it's happening right now. We're at 206, and that's down from where it was last year. I mean, we still have October, November, December, and there's no guarantee that the past will be reflective of the future, but, you know, if we do, you know, basic math, we come in under, you know, under the total of -- last year we had 344, around 344, and this year, if it's a straight-line kind of prediction, we'll come in at around, say, 320.
MARTINEZThree-twenty, wow. It's interesting to me because, like I said, I mentioned I'm from Los Angeles, and we had some of those same kind of issues. There were protests. There were riots. I don't, to my memory in covering what was going on over there, remember a lot of these break-ins of pharmacies, where this has become an issue on the streets. I'm wondering if anyone has an idea as to maybe why in Chicago or maybe in Baltimore that was the case. Are just there more pharmacies where this is available or accessible?
ROSSWell, it is also an anomaly in many respects because we didn't see the same sort of thing happen in the other cities where there were high homicide rates last year. So -- and I think, you know, as Nancy was suggesting, there are these, you know, common dynamics underlying homicide throughout the United States and elsewhere, but I think also, too, each city has its own peculiar kinds of dynamics. And a lot of that happens on the street, you know, in the back alleys on the street corners in terms of the interactions with people who are, you know, dealing in illegal drugs and other kinds of contraband and then also individual street-level practices of policing in terms of how they interact with the folks there.
MARTINEZI'm A. Martinez, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. If you'd like to join us, give us a call, 800-433-8850. Or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And find us on Facebook, or send us a tweet. Haeyoun, at least three of the cities with rising murder rates have been embroiled in protests over police-involved deaths over black men. Tell us which cities those are and what your numbers show.
PARKSure, what we found was that in Cleveland and in Baltimore, in particular, there -- you know, there were several -- there were several cities, like Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland that had been embroiled in protests after police-involved deaths of black males. And, you know, what we found in our analysis was that seven cities drove half of the numerical increase in homicides in 2015. So there were about 6,700 homicides in 2015, which was about 950 more than in 2014. But half of that, about 480 of that, were concentrated in cities like Baltimore and Cleveland and Chicago and also included Houston, Milwaukee, Nashville and Washington.
PARKAnd we don't -- you know, when I talked to experts, there wasn't a simple, single answer for why this was happening. But, you know, we thought there were some similarities among the cities that were pointing, that were worth pointing out, like the fact that the poverty rate is slightly lower than the national average in these seven cities and that -- and three of them, you know, were embroiled in these kinds of protests.
PARKAnd, you know, we -- we've been talking about the study by Dr. Rosenfeld, and what he said in the study, you know, linked to the so-called Ferguson effect. And one version of this hypothesis that Nancy was talking about, you know, is that less aggressive policing resulting -- that resulted from protests of these high-profile police killings of African-Americans. And this, you know, and this hypothesis has spurred, you know, a lot of heated debate among criminologists and lawmakers, and it's still, you know, out there, and there's really no consensus on what really caused the recent spike.
MARTINEZAll right, well let's get into that because that's -- and Nancy mentioned it earlier, the Ferguson effect. Jeffrey, you're a criminologist. What do you think of this -- well what some people have proposed as being a cause for this?
ROSSYou're talking about the Ferguson effect?
ROSSI think it's a great hypothesis. I'm not certain that it holds, unless you can get data that looks specifically at -- either observational data or survey data from police officers leading to -- you know, that support the hypothesis. The hypothesis, as I see it, is that police have somehow altered the way in which they police, and that has somehow sent a message to individuals who might otherwise engage in homicides that they have a free rein.
ROSSI think it's -- it's a very simple hypothesis, but I don't think that it -- you know, I don't think that it holds much water. And yes we can -- we do have a lot of anecdotal evidence, police officers throughout the country and many folks who are in administrative positions have suggested, yeah, we are changing the way we're policing, we're a lot more hesitant to engage with the public, particularly, you know, the criminal element because we fear that our actions may be videotaped or captured on somebody's smartphone. But I'm not sure that that really holds water.
ROSSAnd again, the kind of evidence we need is not -- not accessible.
MARTINEZWe'll get the rest of you -- your thoughts coming up in just a big. This -- coming up, your calls and questions, as well. So please stay tuned. This is A. Martinez in for Diane Rehm.
MARTINEZWelcome back, I'm A Martinez of Take Two on KPCC Southern California Public Radio, sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're talking about homicide rates across the country and we're speaking to Nancy La Vigne, Director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Also, Haeyoun Park, Graphics Editor at the New York Times. Paul Butler, Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. And Jeffrey Ian Ross, Criminologist and Professor at the University of Baltimore.
MARTINEZWe'll take your calls coming up in just a second. 800-433-8850. That's 800-433-8850. Paul, got Jeffrey's thoughts on the Ferguson effect. I want to know what you think about what some are saying might be the reason for this kind of crime increase.
BUTLERI think that's a bunch of malarkey. You know, it just doesn't make sense conceptually. The Black Lives Matters' movement is about civil rights and human rights. What is it about those topics that would make the police not want to do their jobs? Empirically, we don't have any evidence of it. New York and Los Angeles, our two largest cities have very strong Black Lives Matters movements. And crime is going down in those cities. And finally, it's an insult to the police.
BUTLERThe women and men who I know, who want to be cops, do it because they want to get the bad guys. They're willing to go in the most dangerous neighborhoods to try to fight crime, so they're not going to be cowed by a bunch of protesters.
MARTINEZBut Paul, they're not robots. They're human beings, and they're susceptible to emotions and just like anybody else.
BUTLERYeah, but when we look at the actual level of policing in places like Chicago, burglary arrests are up. The police are on the case. There's no evidence that they're not doing their job, and again, to suggest that is just an insult to the men and women who wear blue.
MARTINEZNancy, is that something that people are going to study, at least, or maybe try, or give -- because if you give attention to it, you legitimize it a little bit, right?
VIGNESure. Sure. So, I, you know, I don't want to speak for Dr. Rosenfeld, I do know that he intends to continue to, to explore this. I know he was looking at some hard measures. I know -- Jeff said that you can only get at this through surveys of police officers, but you can look at hard measures of police activity. Like how many arrests they make, you know, other representation of, you know, how they're deployed, how many officers are on the street and so forth. So there are ways to explore this in more detail.
MARTINEZLet's go out to Robert in Miami, Florida. Robert, you're on the Diane Rehm Show.
ROBERTGood morning, how are you doing?
ROBERTI just wanted to say when your guest was talking about how poverty and, you know, (unintelligible) and somehow are causing these young men, these young black men going to cause and shoot people. I think that's a lie. We just had, in Miami, we had an eight-year-old girl who was shot in the head. A 15-year-old was shot, shot in the head at a wake. We had an 18-year-old girl that was shot in the head. We also had a six-year-old girl and five young boys. And I could go on and on and on and on and on.
ROBERTAnd I oftentimes, I'm trying to figure out why we want -- we expect accountability and responsibility from the police in terms of killing young black men. But somehow, we make excuses or causality, these are really excuses, for young black men to wage war on each other and kill each other and kill another individual. I'm -- we have to have accountability in our community regardless if we...
MARTINEZRobert, who is making those excuses?
ROBERTI think -- I hear a lot of the black leadership making those excuses. Your panel has just talked about the high levels of poverty in Chicago. The high -- the police (unintelligible) 16 times. That's ridiculous. We have -- in Chicago, you have almost, you're headed toward 600 homicides, with almost 3500 shooting victims right now. And who's -- and who are the perpetrators and who are the victims? Mostly blacks. It is unfair and it's dismissive and disrespectful for somebody to go to Miss Aldridge's family and say look, the reason why your -- she is dead is because young black men in Chicago don't have jobs.
ROBERTOr, you know, you live in a bad situation. It's dismissive and we don't give excuses when police shoot down black men. And I sure as hell am not giving excuses when young black men continue to wage war on each other in cities and kill other people. This is ridiculous.
MARTINEZRobert, thanks a lot for the phone call. Nancy, you had something to say on that.
VIGNESure. I think one piece of the puzzle that we haven't yet discussed is the fact that most of these homicides are committed by a very, very, very small group of individuals. They're usually gang involved, and so I think the point that Paul was trying to make is that, you know, how do these folks end up getting engaged in the gang life to begin with? And it's a lack of opportunity, right? And so, if there were more opportunities, if there were more pro-social activities for youth, more opportunities for employment, they may not ever become gang members. And in that way, you could reduce the violence.
MARTINEZPaul, are we giving a pass to black on black crime?
BUTLERNot at all. When you think about the rising crime rate in Chicago, you cannot divorce that from the lack of opportunity in the African American community there. So you have to talk about Mayor Rahm Emanuel closing 50 public schools in the most high risk neighborhoods. You have to talk about the way the city is losing affordable housing. Famously closing Karena Green. (sp?) Well, where do those people go? They go to desperation. You know, when people don't trust the police, when they don't have confidence in them, respect for law enforcement goes down.
BUTLERAnd crime goes up. That's why President Obama's task force on 21st century policing recommended racial reconciliation. It recommended that the police have bias training. It's not about coddling criminals or giving African Americans who are at risk for violence a pass. It's about making communities safer, and just as you talk about the police, you have to talk about healing communities. You have to talk about decent housing, affordable childcare. It's all connected.
MARTINEZDon't we know, though, what a crime is and what it isn't? I mean, don't, shouldn't we kind of have this sense inside of us to know what we're doing is right or wrong?
BUTLERYou know, I've been at this for so long, so I've seen these theories about what crime, what makes crime go up and down, come and go, you know. 10 years ago, we were talking about lead paint. That definitely plays a role, including in Baltimore, where, you know, there's so much environmental blight in African American neighborhoods. Freakonomics famously says the crime rate goes up and down because of the availability of abortion. It's Roe v. Wade. You know, now there's this interesting generational theory that says that millennials -- they don't do a lot of risky activities.
BUTLERThey take drugs and use alcohol. They don't even have sex as much as previous generations. So that's an explanation for why crime is going down. There's a public safety benefit based on this millennial generation. The bottom line is, we don't know. A, if we knew why crime goes up and down, we'd put it in a bottle...
MARTINEZWe'd figure it out, right, and do something about it. Right.
BUTLER...and sell it all over the country. We just don't know.
MARTINEZNancy, what about cities, Los Angeles, New York? Two big urban cities where poverty is an issue, drugs are an issue. What's going on there that they don't match their big city counterparts like Chicago?
VIGNESure. Well, let's talk about L.A., your hometown.
VIGNEThey had a very long history of violence, as you know. For many years, very, very high rates of homicides and a lot of this had to do with gang activity. They invested millions and millions of dollars in a very comprehensive gang violence reduction program that focused on at risk youth. Youth that were at risk of joining gangs. They worked to channel those youth into pro-social activities. They had family case managers that worked with the family. They worked very holistically with these at risk youth.
VIGNEAnd at the same time, they also worked to intervene when homicides took place between gang members. And they'd go in and they'd try to prevent retaliations. And take other measures in terms of more pro-active peacemaking there. And we actually evaluated that and found that in the areas that they targeted, that gang violence did actually reduce more so than in other areas.
MARTINEZThis is an email from Michael. In comparing Chicago and California, you said California has very strict gun laws and maybe that's a factor. I read that Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the country. Can someone comment on this? So, if, if California has some strict gun laws, Los Angeles is in California, those numbers aren't as high as say Chicago. What can we make of this seemingly lack of a connection there?
VIGNEWell, it could well be that some share of guns are being bought legitimately, right? So, gun control measures could be helping out in jurisdictions in California. It's also the case that, as I said earlier, a lot of guns used in crime are stolen from households. So, you might want to look at percentage of guns owned in households. That could be one source, as well. But the other thing is that, to quote very famously, guns don't die, right? So, even if you have very strong gun control measures, you still have a certain number of firearms on the street.
VIGNESo then you have to look into the black market. You know, and how, how are guns moving and how accessible are they? And I would argue that in Chicago, they remain very accessible.
MARTINEZJeffrey, let's go back to Baltimore for a second. Last month, the DOJ released a report on Baltimore police. What did it say? What did it find?
ROSSIt found that there's longstanding problems with the Baltimore Police Department in general. And most importantly, is that the types of controls, the suggestions for controls that have been made both internally and externally by well-respected individuals and experts. And including the FOP have been either summarily ignored, dismissed or in terms of implementation, they've been poorly implemented. So, the long and the short is that we now have the police department and the city of Baltimore negotiating a consent decree with the US Department of Justice.
ROSSSo, it's, in many respects, very similar to what took place in Los Angeles. And in New Orleans and also in Ferguson. You have the federal government now stepping in. And this is, you know, it's one thing to have, you know, policies, you know, recommendations, and many reports have recommendations. It's another thing to actually implement them and implement them in a way that they're actually going to lead to some sort of a change.
ROSSI want to go back to some of these, you know, suggestions and practices that Nancy brought up. And I think these are very important. Like the gang, you know, reduction type programs that have happened in the high schools. I think that we should also look at one of the sources of the problems, and one of the sources of the problems is also -- is the war on drugs. And it's not a radical position anymore to talk about decriminalizing drugs. And if we decriminalize drugs, if we eliminate or minimize the war on drugs, we're going to decrease one of the major incentives for gangs.
ROSSAnd that is the illegal drug market. And thus, the homicide rate should reduce. And we saw that back during prohibition and I think, in many respects, it's no different now.
MARTINEZI'm A Martinez. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We'll take more of your thoughts at 800-433-8850. That's 800-433-8850. You can email us, email@example.com. Let's go out to Aaron in Sacramento, California. Aaron, you're on the Diane Rehm Show.
AARONHi, thanks for taking my call. I was just curious what the panel's thoughts were on the role of education and some of the crime rates. And you guys started to touch on it a little bit, but particularly, access to like vocational trades such as, you know, plumbing, electrical work, those kinds of trades.
ROSSYou have to repeat the question.
MARTINEZWhen it comes to education and how lack of education maybe contributes to these rates being up in these cities, and also vocational training too. Basic things. Like, I know in Los Angeles, certain trade schools are shutting down, so I'm wondering if not having those avenues as opportunities leads to some of these crime hikes.
BUTLERI think it's a huge factor. I -- if you look at ways to get young men to have better outcomes, nothing's more successful than having them graduate from high school. They don't have to go to college or medical school or law school. All they have to do is get that high school degree. And again, that's why it's so perverse that Mayor Emanuel in Chicago is closing 50 of the schools. He needs to open more schools to improve the educational process there. And in terms of, you know, getting folks to go into the trades, that's so important.
BUTLERBecause look, everybody's not going to get that Bachelor's Degree or college degree. And they don't have to to have better outcomes. I always say in D.C., I don't have any problem finding a great lawyer or doctor, but man, if I want a plumber or an electrician, I got to call all around and try to plead with someone to come. So, if we can get folks to go into that kind of work, they could make a good living. You know, they're not going to be out in the street doing stuff that they shouldn't be doing.
MARTINEZHaeyoun Park is a Graphics Editor at the New York Times. Haeyoun, wondering, this came out last week, I don't know, have you been moderating what kind of reaction this has gotten? Because it's been surprising for a lot of people, but then for some, they're kind of like, yeah, that's kind of the way it is where we live.
PARKYou know, one question that people have raised about the piece is why we were emphasizing the bad news when, you know, when you look at the opposite, it's -- that 75 of the largest cities did not have a significant rise. And the reason that we decided to, to emphasize the 25 where rates were rising significantly is because when you look at this -- the span of 30 years, we looked at 30 years of data. And we did the same analysis for each year, starting with 1985.
PARKAnd we did a comparison of, you know, the previous three years verses, you know, that year of murder rates. And, you know, what we found was that, you know, in the 25 cities, that's the largest number ever since 1991 when you're sort of at the height of violent crime. So, we thought, you know, it was worth pointing out and worth exploring what was going on in these cities. And, you know, we haven't done, you know, we haven't explored every situation, but what we've, you know, we've talked to experts and what we're finding is that each city has a unique circumstance.
PARKAnd it's, you know, we thought, it's our job to bring this news to our readers. So, people can start exploring what's going on in these cities? And we looked, you know, a little bit more deeply into Chicago and Baltimore. And we've talked a little bit about Baltimore and obviously, we've done a lot on Chicago, as well. But you know, like, like, you know, everybody here have said, you know, experts I spoke to said a lot of the violence in Chicago stems from deep rooted social problems that the city has had for a long time. And one of it being extreme segregation.
PARKIn Chicago, homicides were concentrated in highly segregated pockets that are mostly black. And a fifth of the killings there took place in just two police districts on the west and south sides, which are not only just the most segregated, but it's also the poorest. And when you look at, you know, what you find over and over in Chicago is that crime is concentrated in these parts of the city. And back in May, we did a comparison of the murder problem in Chicago compared with New York.
PARKAnd what we found was that in New York City, there's a connection too between segregation and crime, but to a lesser extent. In Chicago, there's a persistence of segregation and poverty in certain pockets. And the link appeared to be much stronger there than in New York City.
MARTINEZNancy, ultimately, what do we make of all this?
VIGNEYou're asking me to wrap this up, huh?
MARTINEZYes, figure it all out for us, please.
VIGNEWell, I would just remind listeners a few things. One is that, and this is counter to Donald Trump's efforts to get people very concerned about this crime wave. This is happening in very, very small pockets of communities. That doesn't make it any worse. It's still serious and it affects a certain amount of people very, very acutely. It's only involving a very, very small share of the population and in terms of resolving it, or leading to a downturn, it requires a holistic approach, right?
VIGNESo, it requires that early prevention, that finding at risk gang members. And it requires police to be more engaged with community.
MARTINEZThat's Nancy La Vigne, Director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Also joining us, Haeyoun Park, Graphics Editor at the New York Times. Paul Butler, Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. And Jeffrey Ian Ross, Criminologist and Professor at the University of Baltimore. My thanks to all four of you.
BUTLERThanks for having us.
MARTINEZI'm A Martinez, of Take Two on KPCC, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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