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Policing versus Poverty
JohnH
There is a columnist in the San Francisco Chronicle who pretends to be their East Bay correspondent. He consistently talks about the level of crime in Oakland and how the police need to be strengthened to suppress this level of crime. This is an argument accepted by political figures both in Oakland and Alameda Co. which it is a part of.

I have had personal experiences with the Oakland PD which goes back almost 50 years and I will state that in general they suck but that is not what this is about.

Oakland is not quite (Richmond is) the poorest city in the Bay Area. There is little opportunity for people there. What there was in the way of manufacturing jobs has for the most part left. There is a service economy and housing remains somewhat robust because of the extremely high housing costs in most of the rest of the Bay Area, but job opportunities for those with only a high school education are limited. One who knows Oakland (I lived there for some 10 years and my sons live there now) knows that virtually an infinite number of police would only reduce the crime rate slightly. People turn to crime because of poverty (or twisted moral sense but I will ignore that here). Without work for the bulk of the public what else will they do but commit crime. As is well known criminal activity will foster more criminal activity and it becomes a descending spiral.

I mention this because the aforementioned columnist never admits that poverty is a very real cause of the crime rate in Oakland and because I believe it is also the cause of high crime rates in many of the urban parts of the US, maybe even the world.

When people believe they have no hope they resort to activities that can be damaging to the collective including themselves.

The media in the US ignores truth by presenting data out of context and without thought. Poverty is a very real cause of crime and it is ignored by both the media and the policy makers. The loss of manufacturing jobs to places that are much cheaper has damaged our own fellow citizens. We ignore this fact at our own peril.

We also cannot suppress crime by more policing when the causes of that crime are imbedded in peoples lives.

I realize I may be somewhat preaching to the choir here.
 
seeker
Sadly I think that a certain part of our electorate is determined to force us to learn these lessons the hard way.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
Theory_Execution
I think Americans have a very real issue with this mind set that you can Will yourself out of poverty, that people find themselves in it because they are too lazy to go out and get the job done.

The fact remains that without the means, all the Will in the world will simply make you a bitter, broken and depressed person (I know from experience).

The sad thing for me being over the pond, is that I see these sentiments growing in the electorate. Mid-wage workers complaining of people claiming benefits constantly in the news, with no look to the facts.

In the UK we have benefits to underpin the low wage in the country - we have people in full time work that are topped up by tax contributions because the Unions have no teeth and multi-national corporations can play nations of workers against each other.

Maybe JohnH, they could give all the criminals a badge and a salary...
 
Cynic
I don't know that anyone is arguing that police address the root cause of crime. I don't know that anyone argues that ibuprofen attacks the root cause of fevers or headaches either. Both are useful, however, and whatever the cause of the either problem, more of such treatment is indicated when the symptoms become too severe. When I have a headache and take a pill for it, I'm not making any statements about causes; I'm treating a symptom and I'm probably not, at that time, in the mood to chided with silly straw-man arguments about things I'm not saying.

Obviously poverty (and idleness) causes crime. I don't know how to solve it ether. But in addition to agreeing that there are certain downward spiral tendencies to it, I'd also add that poor areas also self-concentrate. When you have less money, you move to places you can afford and when you have more, you move to better areas. Eventually this gets complicated and further entrenched by bad schools, businesses drying up, new industries staying out of that area, etc.

I'm actually rather fascinated by gentrification and all that it tends to entail, pro and con. Anyone have thoughts on it? It seems to me that if concentration of poverty is the problem, how does one interrupt it?
 
seeker
Cynic - I think the problem is more one of whether the way police address crime is the best way. Police really can only address crime that has already occurred which only means that their presence ensures a victim and the likelihood that someone is going into the legal system. Higher crime rates mean higher tension among police and civilians, a situation that just makes police abuse more likely.

We need to be investing more into poverty areas but in the current anti-tax environment that simply won't happen.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
JohnH
Cynic, you danced around an interesting point. I have read in more than one location that having the poor or lower income population dispersed and not concentrated is beneficial to the poor or lower income population. Various explanations for that which should be fairly obvious.

Of course getting the average US middle class citizen to agree to subsidized housing in their neighborhood would be near impossible.
 
Cynic
Thing is, I don't know how one could go about "investing into poverty areas" even if the money were available. One of the catch-22s of gentrification is that success means the effective displacement of the local population. People look at the new and improved region and remark upon how nice it is now, but what they're not seeing is that the people who live there now aren't the same people who used to because they got priced out of their own neighborhood.

Decentralizing a la magnet schools and busing kids around might work, but seems kind of, you know, sinister. Magnet schools, in case that's a local concept or term, are specialized schools for a given topic or whatever that students have to test into if that's their strength or aptitude and then that's their school. The effect is to make schooling more or an egalitarian meritocracy, where wealthy and poor kids end up together and hopefully rub off on each other. Busing kids around is more of a direct intervention thing, where they purposefully take kids from poor areas and literally bus them to another school they wouldn't be able to attend otherwise based on their income because they can't afford to live in the better districts. (This approach tends to piss off wealthy people.)

One thing I've noticed about areas in decline is that they tend to be full of renters, which is to say that the housing is owned and controlled by fewer people than actually live there and quite likely by people who don't live there at all. This tends to accelerate the concentration of poverty and one way to slow it down might be to put set limits on how many homes can be rented versus owned. That no doubt raises a lot of issues with property rights and such, but it's a thought.

To be clear, I don't think the problem is the renters, per se. It's the landlords. When I was looking for a house some time ago a thing kept happening: a new place would be listed and almost if not actually immediately it would be purchased before you could even put a bid down. Looking into that a bit and talking to our realtor, these places were being snapped up by landlords looking to open up a new place to rent out, usually after taking a nice largish house and splitting it into two or three apartments first. This happened to us over and over again. (These were not the most expensive houses out there we were looking for.) Making landlords take a backseat to people looking for a home to live in would, I think, go a long way toward protecting neighborhoods from decline.
 
seeker
Cynic wrote:

Thing is, I don't know how one could go about "investing into poverty areas" even if the money were available. One of the catch-22s of gentrification is that success means the effective displacement of the local population. People look at the new and improved region and remark upon how nice it is now, but what they're not seeing is that the people who live there now aren't the same people who used to because they got priced out of their own neighborhood.


You are conflating gentrification and investment. Gentrification is a process that uses private developers to revitalize a given area. The developers go along because they can turn around and charge higher rents. What we need is government investment on a non-profit basis so that the end product is still affordable to the people who live in that neighborhood.

Cynic wrote:Decentralizing a la magnet schools and busing kids around might work, but seems kind of, you know, sinister. Magnet schools, in case that's a local concept or term, are specialized schools for a given topic or whatever that students have to test into if that's their strength or aptitude and then that's their school. The effect is to make schooling more or an egalitarian meritocracy, where wealthy and poor kids end up together and hopefully rub off on each other. Busing kids around is more of a direct intervention thing, where they purposefully take kids from poor areas and literally bus them to another school they wouldn't be able to attend otherwise based on their income because they can't afford to live in the better districts. (This approach tends to piss off wealthy people.)


It isn't just about schooling though, decentralization needs to happen on a housing level for it to work.

Cynic wrote:One thing I've noticed about areas in decline is that they tend to be full of renters, which is to say that the housing is owned and controlled by fewer people than actually live there and quite likely by people who don't live there at all. This tends to accelerate the concentration of poverty and one way to slow it down might be to put set limits on how many homes can be rented versus owned. That no doubt raises a lot of issues with property rights and such, but it's a thought.

To be clear, I don't think the problem is the renters, per se. It's the landlords. When I was looking for a house some time ago a thing kept happening: a new place would be listed and almost if not actually immediately it would be purchased before you could even put a bid down. Looking into that a bit and talking to our realtor, these places were being snapped up by landlords looking to open up a new place to rent out, usually after taking a nice largish house and splitting it into two or three apartments first. This happened to us over and over again. (These were not the most expensive houses out there we were looking for.) Making landlords take a backseat to people looking for a home to live in would, I think, go a long way toward protecting neighborhoods from decline.


The problem is that housing is a for-profit business and in any for-profit endeavor there will be people who can't afford to pay. The safety net cannot work on a for-profit basis.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
Theory_Execution
I think the Industrial Revolution must step in here and take a bow.

Where industries required smaller workforces and hamlets, villages and town would have diverse populations (in terms of skill sets) in the years prior to the Industrial Revolution, communities tended to be closer (for trade reasons) and across a spectrum of wealth.

So the richest would live very close to the poorer, who would generally be directly employed.

Then as industry took over, and mass movement of people to cities occurred, separation was created between producers and consumers.

The rich would move to where the rich live, the poor to where the work was.

The government in the UK built social housing estates, big swathes of government owned housing, as a benefit (safety net) for those struggling in the economy. This really didn't help.

Whether it was because buying up land and building a big bunch together was cheaper, or people objected to having say every other 5th house on all streets registered as council owned I dont know.

I agree with Seekers comments.
 
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