Sunday, February 12, 2006

Urban Homicide Rate Story In Sunday's NY Times: Includes Nashville and Comments From Serpas

This morning's New York Times has an important story on the skyrocketing city homicide rates, which seem to be a national trend. A graphic table comparing the upticks in violent crimes in various cities--including Nashville--over a five year period is also attached to the article.

The primary basis for most of the murders seems to be people upset over petty disputes and arguments. These disputes generally involve personal issues like "disrespecting" or even looking the wrong way at another person. In many cases, killers and victims know each other. But even where the primary crimes involve robbery, perpetrators are much more likely to shoot victims now than they have been in the past.

According to the article, police across the country blame the rising availability of guns on the street and the relative ease with which permits to carry guns may be obtained (in Philadelphia, for example the number of people authorized to carry guns has risen from 700 to 32,000 since 1985). And they blame judges' lax sentencing and light bail. The Times mentions Nashville Police Chief Ronal Serpas on this point; saying that he tells of an 18-year-old who had been arrested 41 times, but who was out on bail when he killed someone during a dice game. Other factors that the Times mentions includes impoverished neighborhoods and the shrinkage of an industrial base that used to provide jobs for those without an education.

This is a very helpful piece for understanding the scope of the problem that many of us in urban neighborhoods worry over.

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