Monday, December 19, 2005

Eliminate Crime to Reduce Poverty or Reduce Poverty to Reduce Crime?

Crime is so inscrutable that many of us who've never experienced poverty fall into what I believe is a trap by drawing too close a correlation.

Singling out poverty as the underlying cause of crime may not make sense. It begs the question of why so few people in poverty turn to criminal behavior. Eliminating poverty may not be the panacea for reducing crime, especially for sociopathic, senseless crimes like murder and rape.

Substance, child or spousal/partner abuse also isn't exclusive to those in poverty by any means. It is true that people who don’t perceive other opportunities often turn to drug-dealing, but the demand for illicit drugs is across all socioeconomic levels.

Even things like eviction for not paying rent aren't exclusive to those in poverty or even those without jobs. More than one analyst has identified that character development has a much closer correlation to crime than poverty.

The alarming problem with crime is that it is much more likely to victimize those in poverty or low income. If for no other reason than to give those in poverty better access to opportunity, we need to guarantee them above all, personal safety.

Regardless of the underlying reasons, there must be no tolerance for homicide and forcible rape.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Fear of Confrontation

I’ve been reading Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Turns out the dysfunctions are applicable to a team of 4 or 5, an organization and a community.

One in particular is something I run into often with civic and business leaders, and that’s "fear of conflict." This isn’t the type of conflict common in politics or the conflict some groups use as political theater. Those too easily devolve into interpersonal attacks and back-channeling.

The conflict discussed in the book is "ideological conflict" (over concepts and ideas). Even business leaders who battle daily with competitors in the dog-eat-dog world of the free market are often very reticent to permit passionate debates at a community or intraorganizational level. The book goes on to warn that those who fear conflict "doom themselves to revisiting issues again and again without resolution."

Engaging in the conflict of passionate debate and ideas is a time-saver, and it minimizes politics and results in rapid problem-solving. Even in a community like Durham, where we pride ourselves in being outspoken, we could use a major workshop on fear of conflict.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Durham Crime Comparative

This is a bit later in the year than usual, but linked are the updated crime benchmarks that have been tracked for the past decade. They show 10 Southeast communities similar in makeup and size, including Durham as a city and as a city-county, and then a similar group broadened nationally to 29 communities nationwide.

The value of this information, produced and disseminated on behalf of the 10-organization Durham Public Information and Communications Council, is that it provides perspective both to residents and potential newcomers.

It also aids the news media in providing perspective to otherwise anecdotal references too easily skewed to the sensational. It also helps officials calibrate deployment of crime prevention assets and programs by clarifying where Durham is unique and where it is out of synch.

The Durham Police Department has for instance used the data to address and make great strides in the area of robbery.

The data are not to be used as an apology or excuse to lessen intensity in the effort to drive crime ever lower. It is a tool to better inform those who trade in negative word of mouth and exaggeration which serve no useful purpose at all. The website URL for this report is