I was reading the L.A. Times website and was startled to see a blog chronicling the murders in the city. The paper is recording all deaths caused by other human beings. The times gives a description of the murder and the victim. Watching this list grow weekly suddenly brought home just how many people are murdered over the course of a year. I read this with great interest given the problems Youngstown is currently facing.
Included in the L.A. Times blog is a map created by one of their readers. This was extremely interesting given how concentrated homicides seem to be in south L.A. and how the crime is reaching out to other areas of the city. Especially interesting from my Mahoning Valley perspective was this paragraph:
The map revealed both expected and unexpected patterns of homicide, Quick said. "You look at what's going on in South Los Angeles, and it's heartbreaking," he said. "But then you start to see it's not contained. There are these little tentacles that go out ... it brings home that this is not just a problem in one area." At the same time, Quick noted that some neighborhoods that people used to call dangerous, such as MacArthur Park, now have few homicides.
It is not unusual to hear Mahoning Valley residents talk about which side of Youngstown is worse than others. I decided to follow Michael Quick's example and create my own map of Youngstown homicides to see if patterns emerged. I plotted the murders as well as the names and ages of the victims. Clicking on the markers displays information about the crime. The map for 2006 can be seen here and for 2007 here. The 2006 map lists only 22 of the 32 murders committed. The 2007 map is missing information on one murder. I am still searching for information on these crimes and will update the maps as I find it. The "my maps" button in the links column will remain up so people can continue to view the maps.
Here are some observations based on the maps. Murders in the city appear to be spread primarily among the south side, north side and east side neighborhoods. The west side appears to have fewer murders. Murder victims for 2006 average 28.8 years of age with the youngest just a year old and the oldest 52.
In reviewing the data to create the maps I was struck with just how casual the brutality of the crimes seemed. To read about an abused one year old or a clerk at Autozone shot during a robbery seemed unreal. I wondered what any of these persons could have done to warrant such treatment and realized the answer was nothing. These and other murders were simply senseless.
The national murder rate in the United States is 5 persons per 100,000. In Youngstown it's about 43. The drastic steps taken so far by Mayor Jay Williams don't appear to be working. There are already 9 murders in the city in 2007. The accomplishments of the mayor's zero tolerance policy pale beside the continuing killings.
As I look over the maps I'm beginning to see why people are calling Ron Verb and Dan Rivers and speculating about the benefit of bringing the National Guard to the city to enforce law and order. Flooding the city with a surge of troops may reduce crime to a low enough level to force the criminals out and allow local authorities time to gain control over the area. If President Bush thinks it is a good idea for Baghdad then perhaps Youngstown could benefit as well.
In all seriousness, while I reviewed this data I realized that murder in this country is too prevalent. I know you know that but let me put it in perspective for you. The war in Iraq has cost us the lives of about 3,100 servicemen and women over the last four years. In 2005 16,692 people were murdered. It's long past time the country saw this crime as the problem it is and dealt with it accordingly. We need a paradigm shift that concentrates on preventing crime. We need to discover and address the problems that lead to crime.
- If criminals are killing each other and innocents over drug profits then the time has come to have a serious discussion about legalization.
- If we expect criminals to come out of prison rehabilitated but don't offer training and then send them back to the same circumstances that led them to crime why are we surprised when they commit more violent crimes?
- Why do we allow children to drop out of high school and then shake our heads in astonishment when they clog the courts and jails with drug convictions?
What do you think?
The 2007 map now includes all homicide victims recorded as of March 18th.