The Blog Squad

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Crime forum, anyone?

The Times-Dispatch reported that more than two hundred people bothered to leave their homes and go to Hanover county to discuss Richmond's crime problems. I think 200 is probably a pretty decent turnout (never mind the half-million of us who did not bother to attend). But each week, more than 200 people read this and other local blogs and we have a chance to conduct our own forum, don't you think? I commend the T-D for doing these things even as I agree with Publisher Thomas Silvestri's comment that "I don't think talking about [crime] is going to solve it but maybe if we start the conversation as a community, we can get places." He's right about that, as long as we are not talking in circles or in cliches. Jim Ukrop saying, "We need to declare war on crime in our region" does exactly what for us? Now, I'm sure Ukrop had a lot more than that to say, but that's the quote that got printed. Declare war on crime. Well, for Pete's sake...

Other speakers had these things to say:
"I think prison should be punishment, not a vacation."
"Nowadays the village doesn't raise the child. The child is pillaging the village."
"We've got to stop throwing good money at bad problems ..."
"Self-defense is more than a right, it's a moral duty."

If anything of substance came out of the T-D's effort, it sure didn't show in the story today. Either that was the best of it, or reporters Paige Akin and Julian Walker went for the low-hanging fruit of the pithy quotes. (Regular people are sure getting better at giving good quote, don't you think?) So what should our little forum start with? I would love to know what you would like to talk about in terms of our crime problem. I'll tell you what I've been thinking a lot about. We all talk as if there is something each one of us can do individually, and I suppose that is absolutely true. We can mentor a young person or volunteer to work with troubled youth or join our neighborhood watch. Do you want to know what I did in response to the hideous murders this month to help cut down crime? I called ADT. How do we get people like myself who are safely tucked in the suburbs to care so much about Richmond's crime problems that we actually do something other than protecting ourselves? For that matter how do we get people in the city to do something? And what, exactly, should we ask them to do?
Your thoughts, friends?


At Wed Jan 25, 03:56:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


As one who also lives in the 'burbs but spends a lot of time in the city, I think that any discussion of crime in Metro Richmond - and the city specifically - has to first make a distinction between "occurance of crime" and "perception of crime." You can't start a serious discussion without extracting the two. Many people who live in the suburbs fear Richmond - any part of Richmond outside of Carytown and the Far West End - because of the crime in the East End and some Northside neighborhoods. But, when you isolate Gilpin, Blackwell, and the surround areas, the actual rates and numbers of crime declines precipitously.

Additionally, we have to deal with the racial reality and engage in racial truth-telling. For the most part - Harvey family aside - Richmond's crime is poor black v. poor black, and sometimes poor black v. working class or middle class black (and vice versa). Yet, some white suburban perceptions of the city (which diverge from white city-dweller perceptions in my experience) are that roving bands of black criminals are just waiting to carjack their Volvos. Realistically, a black man like me has a much higher chance of being a victim in Richmond than any of my white neighbors.

At the same time, Metro Richmonders of all stripes are going to have to take responsibility for enabling the micro and macro level socioeconomic conditions that allow concentrated, persistent poverty to fester and incubate a criminal class. It's a combination of individual personal responsibility, civic engagement, and community and parental controls. Also, I echo comments that a focus on self-defense (the places with the strongest gun laws have the highest crime - statistical validity and correlation notwithstanding), and not simply by "lockin' and loadin'." A community that prizes true self-defense also is able to self-regulate bad behavior prior to it turning violent. Such communities are imbued with a sense of civic responsibility, and that starts at a parental or familial level and extends to a neighborhood. Too often, urban communities lack this.

Those are just one man's thoughts...for now. Thanks for getting this going.

-- Conaway

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