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Surge in NY Violent Crime Linked to Recession

Amsterdam News, News Report, Nayaba Arinde Posted: Jun 02, 2008

For many people of color, this is not a recession, its a depression, said Dr. Kirkland Vaughns, an associate professor at Adelphi University. If whites were unemployed at this 50 percent rate, theyd be calling it a depression.

Economists and elected officials may go back and forth about whether or not the country is actually in a recession, but people across the nation are feeling a pinch in their wallets. And when moneys tight, crime sometimes gets hyped.

The Memorial Day shootings of eight males in three separate incidents in Harlem has spurred yet another demand to address violent crime in urban areas.

While no one is suggesting that New York is about to return to urban grittiness of the 70s and 80s, social scientists, criminologists and inner-city residents are watching with informed anticipation the recession and crime rate figures both.

Even folk who go out of their way to ignore political machinations, cannot shield themselves from the economy. Every day, published reports or electronic news of all genres show how basic food prices are creeping up with a vengeance, what with gas prices also going through the roof. Then rents are taking bigger chunks of steady paychecks, foreclosures are on the upswing, and all manner of services and resources are being slashed by all levels of city and state government.

I dont think people have very many options if unemployment is at 50 percent, psychiatrist and author Dr. James McIntosh told the AmNews. Theyve cut all the benefits, theres no housing, no work. People have to see an alternative.

Far from the governing bodies being unaware of the circumstances that drive the desperate to consider criminal enterprise, McIntosh said, I think they plan on it. Look at the criminal justice system; their style of policing. They create the problem in particular communities, then they have extra observations and monitoring in terms of police officers; then they put the people in jail and make money off of it.
I have no empirical data that there is a correlation between recession and the increase in the crime rate, and I dont think there is any [data], but I absolutely believe that there is one, said Dr. Vaughns, a professor of clinical psychology and psychological analyst.

People are really losing faith in the system. I think thats why Barack Obamas message of change and hope is so powerfulbecause people are really in a state of despair. The government is supposed to act like a parent in certain ways. It has parental functions as far as families and communities, and when things get really bad, the government is supposed to step in and serve and contain anxieties. The government is supposed to motivate and keep hope alive. Our government has taken the opposite role, and people see the breakdown of this relationship, and the governments blatant indifference.

Its worse than is being reported, said Vaughns, who also works as a psychologist Hempstead High School. The government, he continued is supposed to provide not just meaningful work, but work where you can earn a living, and I think just as the government turns on us, we begin to turn on each other.

The NYPD declares that crime is down 2.7 percent from 2006, but acknowledges that murders and shootings are up by over 10 percent each. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly claims that the prevalence of illegal guns is whats driving up the numbers in gun crime.

Comparative Compstat numbers for this time last year in the 28th Precinct (which covers the area of the Memorial Day shootings) have an increase of just one incident in felony assaults, which includes use of fire arms weapon. Rapes are up 900 percent, however. In the neighboring 32nd Precinct, felony assaults are up 21.3 percent.

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, according to other crime analysts, the numbers dont amount to a hill of beans in the final analysis.

To paraphrase my favorite line from Mark Twain, we should use statistics as a drunk uses a lamppostfor support and not for illumination, said a stats-skeptical Marq Claxton, retired detective and spokesman for civil rights group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement. To show a statistical analysis on these types of tragedies is useless and out of context because it does nothing to deter these situations. It is not part of a solution. It is so irrelevant in the face of tragedy. It is a way to keep the focus away from governmental failures that have exacerbated the problem of violence in our communities. The other part of it, though, is what is our responsibility? What can we do ourselves to address the problems aside from what the government is supposed to be doing?

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