Monday, July 15th, 2013

Public Safety Is Job #1

I participated in an interesting message board debate a few weeks ago. We were discussing the steep collapse in the urban core (Center Township) population of Indianapolis, a drop comparable to Detroit’s. It lost another 14.5% during the 2000s and even the downtown itself only added less than 1000 people at time with other downtowns were growing more sharply.

Most people were quick to blame schools. I agreed the schools were a problem but suggested crime was a bigger one. Besides which, nobody has yet demonstrated a real turnaround in urban schools, while multiple places have been able to achieve stunning improvements in crime.

What most took me aback was not the debate over which order to rank the two, but rather than many people effectively argued Indianapolis doesn’t even have a crime problem. “It’s not that dangerous” seemed to be the tone, and people talked about how they personally did not feel unsafe or threatened despite living in the city and that suburbanites simply sensationalized urban crime.

I disagree with that in the strongest possible way. While no doubt things can be sensationalized and you aren’t likely to get killed walking down the street, Indianapolis does have a serious crime problem. Almost immediately after our debate died out, someone was shot and killed in the middle of downtown on the 4th of July. And after that there was a series of five murders in one week.

While many cities have seen a drop in murders this year, Indianapolis murders are up 35% and the city is on track for upwards of 150 this year. To put that in perspective, New York City has experienced a stunning drop in murders this year (after a record low last year), and is tracking towards somewhere around 300 murders for the year. NYC has a 10 times the population of Indianapolis but only twice as many murders. When you consider that much of Indianapolis’ population is in outer “suburban” areas that were annexed and have very few murders, the urban core murder rate must be far, far higher than NYC.

Indianapolis Public Safety Director Troy Riggs says the city isn’t more dangerous and points at declines in violent crime overall (query: has it fallen by 80% in the last 20 years, like it did in New York City?). This is exactly the same spin that Rahm Emanuel has been giving to explain away Chicago’s high murder rate.

The people trapped in these neighborhoods tell a different tale. In some Chicago neighborhoods mothers won’t let their kids stand by the window even if they are home because of the risk of getting shot. Someone in Indy similarly said, “I hear gunshots and police sirens every night. I’ve taught my kids how to roll out of bed and get underneath it when it starts happening.”

Make no mistake, the top reason to reduce crime is to keep people from becoming its victims or having to live their lives in terror in neighborhoods like this. But beyond that crime is simply fatal to the urban fabric. Just as one data point, some researchers found that every murder committed causes a city to lose 70 people. Chicago actually would have gained population instead of losing it if its murder rate were the same as New York. Clearly crime is high among the factors driving people out of the central city who have the means to leave, and keeping those who might be willing to move into to it away.

Additionally, given the impressive record of crime reduction in New York and many other places, including Los Angeles (which has also made huge strides in improving police-community relations from its Detective Mark Fuhrman days), it’s also clear that progress can be made.

I’m not sure that there’s a ready answer for schools. My hypothesis has been that it will be families returning to the city that turns around the schools, not a turnaround in the schools bringing families back. But crime is clearly different. Yes, gentrification will “improve” the crime situation. But NYC and LA have seen dramatic crime reductions even in their toughest neighborhoods, ones that have not seen gentrification.

Crime problems can be solved if there’s the will to do so. That will is ultimately lacking in too many places. There’s a fatalistic attitude towards crime too often, and few politicians have the stomach for the spending it will take or the blowback many crime reduction efforts will clearly generate.

But by contrast look at something like fire protection. It’s well known that if you don’t put out a fire in a timely fashion, your entire city can burn down – including rich people’s neighborhoods – something that has happened again and again throughout history. Hence no city, no matter how poorly run in other areas, ultimately allows its fire protection to fall below minimum standard. For example, even in Detroit, while the fire department has seen major cuts, has tons of broken down equipment, has to deal with a stunningly high percentage of arson fires, etc, there is still a baseline level of fire protection for the city, something that was documented in the recent documentary about the Detroit Fire Department called “BURN.”

That fire protection is generally the best provided public service has been known for a long time. For example, in 1972’s “Report From Engine Company 82,” Dennis Smith (admittedly a fire fighter) had this to say:

The people in the South Bronx know that when the corner alarm box is pulled the firemen always come. If you pick up a telephone receiver in this town you may, or may not, get a dial tone. If you get on a subway you may, or may not, get stuck in a tunnel for an hour. The wall socket in your apartment may, or may not, contain electricity. The city’s air may, or may not, be killing you. The only real sure thing in this town is that the firemen come when you pull the handle on that red box.

Failing to put out fires in a timely fashion is simply unacceptable in a city, while we’ve grown used to tolerating large amounts of crime. Places like New York City have decided that they for one will not accept high crime rates, and have relentlessly attacked it, making stunning progress.

I think we need to acknowledge that macrotrends played a big role in this. Mayors like Giuliani and Daley got big credit for turning around their cities, when in fact many big cities all came back at the same time, suggesting common outside forces played a big role. (Saskia Sassen does a great job of documenting this macrochange in “The Global City.”) The peaking of the crack cocaine epidemic likewise helped incredibly. I’m sure there are many other such common factors.

Yet it doesn’t seem unreasonable to attribute at least something to policing and policy changes. Both NYC and LA saw major changes under the leadership of William Bratton. (Chicago, which tried different methods, has not seen similar results, though has had improvements in the last 20 years). It seems to me a lot of people would rather die than give any credit to Giuliani, Bloomberg, the NYPD, Bratton, Kelly, Broken Windows, etc. Myron Magnet wrote of this, “Some people can’t – or won’t – see what’s in front of their own eyes.”

There is certainly plenty of scope to debate or critique various police tactics (e.g, stop and frisk). I myself am very troubled by the increasing militarization of the police, for example. This is a debate that needs to be had and reforms made where necessary. And the police definitely need to be held accountable when they do wrong, something that requires significant, vigilant oversight.

Yet to me the current crop of NYC mayoral candidates give off a soft on crime air. If the next mayor decides to opportunistically score cheap political points at the expense of NYPD, not just that mayor, but the entire city, may come to regret it. Sadly, too many people no longer remember what it was like even in Manhattan not that long ago. (For a sample to refresh your memory, read this). For example, the New York Times in 2004 asked “Is New York Losing Its Street Smarts?,” citing a woman who thought it was a joke at first when she got mugged.

The Millennial urban dweller who has never experienced anything but urban Disneyland is sadly unlikely to understand what is at stake. And indeed even if NYC takes its foot off the gas on crime, things are extremely unlikely to go back to what they were (thankfully). But even a modest uptick in crime can have a chilling effect, and the crime genie can be fiendishly difficult to put back in the bottle once it’s loose. Just ask Rahm Emanuel. Despite his crime stat rhetoric, he knows the score. He meets the families of the victims and I’m sure desperately wants to end the killings.

As for Indianapolis, it’s hard to argue it has really been serious about crime. Before doing a job search for Public Safety Director, the city council specially raised the salary of the job – to $125,000 a year. That’s for a person overseeing both police and fire with a budget of $525 million. Unsurprisingly, they’ve been unable to recruit somebody with the experience befitting the 13th largest municipality in the United States. The previous occupant came from White Plains, NY. (His contract was not renewed). The current one came from Corpus Christi, TX.

I’m not saying Troy Riggs is no good, merely that this is a huge step up for him. He certainly deserves a fair shot to do the job, which he’s been on less than a year. But Indy is in a sort of lose-lose position. Either they hired another guy who’s a bust. Or if he succeeds he’ll be “gone in 60 seconds” to someplace where they’ll pay him a real salary.

I’ve long argued that Indianapolis public sector pay is too low to do a proper national job search for any key position in city government. But it’s tough to change when locals don’t agree. See, for example, Paul Ogden, who strongly feels differently. But it’s the same elsewhere. Detroit had a recent controversy over the pay of its police chief too.

Call me crazy, but I don’t know anyone in the private sector managing a $525 million budget that’s safety critical who only makes $125K/yr. If that salary was raised by just $25-50K, the field of potential recruits would increase enormously. Skimping on policing is the epitome of penny wise, pound foolish – and it’s the city’s citizens, disproportionately the poor ones, who pay the price.

At the end of the day it’s simply a matter of priorities. You could buy a lot of policing for the cost of even one of the $500 million stadiums that dot the American landscape. You can be sure that if a major fire ever again did wipe out a good chunk of a city, state and local government will do whatever and spend whatever it takes to make sure it doesn’t happen again. One hurricane in New York and Bloomberg puts $20 billion in improvements on the table for better withstanding future storms. Yet crime and other ills have effectively destroyed big chunks of our cities, and we’ve just let it happen.

I find that urbanists seem to rarely talk about public safety unless it’s about some controversial incident with the police. I think that’s a mistake. Most cities in America aren’t seeing the strong investment flows and growth of a New York, San Francisco, or Seattle. Outside of a “green zone” downtown many places are still in decline. There’s nothing more important to restoring confidence in those places – and put and end to the ongoing human tragedy in too many of their neighborhoods – than fighting crime. Public safety really is Job #1.

29 Comments
Topics: Public Safety
Cities: Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, New York

29 Responses to “Public Safety Is Job #1”

  1. John Morris says:

    Great post. Helps me understand Indy a lot more.

    I agree with most of what was said. Urbanists are amazingly silent on this issue, although most would say density, eyes on the street; good design & placemaking often contribute to general safety.

    If all the other components including safety work well- education can become just another private service available in the community. Sprawling suburbs cannot support a variety of choices and are big defenders of the status quo.

    I don’t know if i agree that most good crime fighting/ prevention creates “blowback”. My guess is that the desperate measures often taken are needed only in the most damaged communities.

  2. John M (Indy) says:

    I agree with this up to a point. Funding matters. Priorities matter. Salaries matter. The 35 percent increase in murders is a problem, and as you note, the specific circumstances (downtown on July 4, others in broad daylight near busy streets) are an even bigger cause for concern. Nevertheless, I think the reason you see some pushback from committed city residents is because crime can be fought, but it’s never going to be eradicated. A prospective resident who is motivated primarily or exclusively by the crime rate is always going to choose the suburbs. That’s true regardless of whether the murder rate is increasing or decreasing and whether we’re talking about Indy, Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, or wherever. The same people from Hamilton County who look askance at me for living where I live do so regardless of what the crime rate is doing in a given year.

    I can’t speak for or claim to represent “urbanists” either in Indy or generally, but it’s possible to care about crime while also pushing back against the notion that the city is a lawless jungle where the average commute or trip to the grocery store is filled with danger.

  3. What of the notion that the police can’t actually do much to prevent crime, all they can do is respond to it and try to catch the perpetrators? I’m not sure I believe that myself, but I can see it leading to diminishing returns at the very least. It’s similar to the school situation, where a city can spend heroic amounts of money, throw new buildings, special programs, and all sorts of goodies at failing schools, but if the kids, their peers, and their families do not value learning, then all that is just money poured down a black hole.

    The crime situation may be similar, where no matter how many cops, cameras, tazers or whatever, crime will still happen and witnesses will still decline to come forward. Of course all the focus shouldn’t be on just murders either. Muggings and burglary definitely scare a lot of people away too. I guess in general most people seem to think that more cops = less crime, but it’s much more nuanced than that.

  4. John Morris says:

    A 125,000 Salary for the city’s top public safety officer- shows almost no investment at all. I say that as someone who thinks a lot of public officials are way overpaid.

  5. Spencer says:

    I don’t think Aaron really understood the discussion he stumbled upon. Straight up, and the guy doesn’t even live here.

  6. Chris Barnett says:

    I’m one of the people Aaron mentions who commented on the local thread (and doesn’t feel unsafe).

    The same IndyStar article that highlights the increase in murders also highlights a big decrease in aggravated assault, which is serious bodily injury short of homicide. Serious crimes against persons really are decreasing.

    In that story, it is pointed out that distance to hospital and time to 911 call/response often dictates whether a shooting/stabbing victim survives.

  7. By the way, Bloomberg estimated the cost of Chicago’s murders at $2.5 billion – $2,500 per household every year:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-23/first-lady-s-chicago-shows-gun-toll-for-city-that-bleeds.html

    Assuming that impact is similar in other places, that’s a simple calculation you can apply to anyplace you want. The cost is stunning.

  8. ahow628 says:

    I’ll agree with Chris Barnett that I feel safe living in downtown Indy with my family. We walk and bike about 70% of the time and I’ve not felt threatened (aside from idiots almost running me over in their cars).

    My biggest beef with the way things are done in Indy is the ridiculous take-home car program that Indy cops have which I’ve heard is one of the richest in the country. Millions of dollars are spent each year to give cops a $60,000 squad car to drive home, the grocery, second jobs, and to drop kids at school. Most of those cars are parked in driveways in nice parts of town, not at 30th and College. I’ve brought this up to others and they feel like it is a well earned benefit for officers, but I fully disagree.

    It looks like vehicles cost something like $6M per year (though it is hard to tell from the budget). If half of that could be cut by having fleet vehicles and spend some of the extra on putting lights on the officer’s personal vehicle, that extra savings could be put toward some pretty major hiring of new officers.

    Additionally, there was a study done by Temple that showed a notable decrease in most types of crime when officers walked a beat instead of in a squad car. Google “foot patrol vs vehicle patrol” for more info on that. Not to mention that officers actually interacting with the community instead of being an adversary would be an excellent start.

    I personally would be more than happy to see a tax rate hike in Marion County to help fund more police and curb crime, but given this is Indianapolis, I have a feeling the opposite would be more likely to happen.

    An excellent recommendation I heard elsewhere was to hire recently retired vets as officers since they could receive minimal training and be ready for the pressures of the job. I like this idea and would love to see it pursued.

  9. Mike says:

    I think this is excellent piece. Personally as I’ve grown more professionally involved in the field of urban planning the issue of public safety increasingly informs my ideas about what is truly needed to turn blighted neighborhoods around.

    To respond to Chris’s and ahow628’s posts. I don’t think the question is whether or not you personally feel safe. That response is only relevant when talking about the perception of crime. How you or the public feels or perceives crime in urban areas is certainly important. But what is more important is actual crime. That is crime which destroys neighborhoods, uproots citizens and traps others in unsafe areas. Currently there is very little in the urban planning toolkit to addresses this. Maybe the problem is beyond our profession. But it ought not to be.

  10. Ziggy says:

    Dylan Ratigan tried to advance the concept of “hot spotting” a couple of years ago. It applies to healthcare costs as well as criminal activity:

    http://www.dylanratigan.com/2011/11/29/hot-spotting-big-city-crime-spending-less-and-getting-more/

  11. John Morris says:

    “Currently there is very little in the urban planning toolkit to addresses this. Maybe the problem is beyond our profession. But it ought not to be.”

    I don’t fully agree with that. Jane Jacob’s basic thinking certainly had a lot to do with safety.

  12. bettybarcode says:

    Admire NYC’s statistics if you must, but please know that their books are cooked:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/nyregion/new-york-police-department-manipulates-crime-reports-study-finds.html?_r=0

    And let’s not forget that New York City was the breeding ground of a terrifying organized crime for which no one was prosecuted: the bank and Wall Street-induced global economic disaster of 2008.

    In the wake of the George Zimmerman acquittal and indifference to crimes typically perpetrated by white middle class folks like you and me, I sadly conclude that the “crime” discussed in this article is code for the perceived threat of African-American men.

  13. Jon Seisa says:

    Well, Betty, I was wondering what the mysterious elusive unspoken demographic profile in this article was inferring in the inner city crime sector, and I had ruminated that perhaps this is why ultimately urban cores succumb to proverbial White Flight and then subsequent societal core decay. In reality the modern euphemism might be better interpreted as “Flight-4-Safety”. When this manifests wise investors are unwilling to take the risk and invest in such a high risk downtown. So I agree with the basic thesis, that safety is the #1 Job, least much is jeopardized. The city should pull out all the stops on this one.

  14. ahow628 says:

    Jon and Betty, I’m not sure if you guys are from Indy or not but the things in this article apply to Fountain Square as well, which is a vast majority white (>90%). Not that there isn’t necessarily a racial component, but it isn’t a problem exclusive to one group.

    I like the term flight to safety. I think that aptly describes it.

  15. Mikr says:

    Chris, agreed the Jacobs addressed this and there definitely ways the planning can make things safer. Now maybe I’m being glib but I’m of a mind to think that there is no easy and identifiable physical planning solution to a social problem.

    I appreciated Aaron’s example of fire but as technology has progressed it has become much easier issue to solve. Write and enforce stricter building codes, add smoke detectors and do some public outreach, “don’t smoke in bed.” Crime is a human problem and its roots are obviously much deeper. It will take coordinated effort among all levels of government and society to solve.

    Mike

  16. John Morris says:

    I think a lot of what Jacobs was talking about was trying preserve and be sensitive about protecting and developing the things that are working in a community. While other people were looking at the buildings she was looking at how people interacted.

    The big problem is of course, what one does with really damaged communities.

    A huge percent of the remaining violent crime in NYC happens in a few areas, and many of the murders are now domestic.

  17. John Morris says:

    I agree that many urbanists reach for design tools for all problems. Often you just need more cops.

    In really damaged places, all one can ask is for the cops to stop enough bleeding for other positive changes to start to take root.

  18. Chris Barnett says:

    I agree with the notion that “there is no easy and identifiable physical planning solution to a social problem”.

    I also would propose that Jacobs’ “eyes on the street” thesis is probably obsolete in an era of widespread disrespect for others and for authority, especially when teens are carrying guns around.

    I would underline ahow’s comments: there is a too-quick presumption that “the problem” is being discussed in coded terms that indicate racism. This is not the case.

    Indianapolis has a significant (Caucasian) Appalachian-American population whose inner-city demographics (educational attainment, income, single parenthood, poverty percentage, etc.) are indistinguishable from inner-city African-Americans’.

    For example, a few years ago it was considered horrible and scandalous that the African-American male graduation rate from IPS was 24%. The rate for Caucasian males in IPS in the same study: 25%. We have a poverty problem, not a racial problem.

    To me, the most infamous murder in the city was several years ago when a 14-year-old shot and killed an acquaintance in an alley. The murderer is a white kid, and it happened not too far from Fountain Square. It was drug-related.

    Not because I am white and middle class do I dismiss this sort of crime as irrelevant and unlikely to happen to me. It is because I don’t hang out in alleys with teenage drug dealers. And I deliberately avoid giving the impression that I have money or any nice things on me or in my house, so that I do not unintentionally make myself a target of those folks or their customers.

  19. John Morris says:

    Jacobs prescriptions and advice go far beyond, just “eyes on the street”.

    Some chapter titles from The Death & Life of Great American Cities

    The uses of sidewalks: safety (first chapter)
    The uses of sidewalks: contact (also related to safety- community)
    The uses of sidewalks: assimilating children
    The uses of neighborhood parks

    The curse of border vacuums
    Unslumming & slumming
    Gradual money and cataclysmic money

    In fact almost every chapter deals in some way with safety.

    I also don’t agree that these concepts are obsolete in any way. Most neighborhoods with Jane Jacobs characteristics perform pretty well, even in times of great stress.

  20. John Morris says:

    One of my big problems with Jacobs is that I think she didn’t stick to her core principles. For example, she saw benefits of mixed building uses and the dangers of cataclysmic change– but she opposed the rezoning of many industrial districts to allow other uses. The end result, in many cases was underused areas (border vacuums) and later massive rezoning and cataclysmic change.

    While I don’t think she used the term, Death and Life is about creating cities that preserve and develop social capital.

  21. George Mattei says:

    One of my City Planning professors at Ohio State, Hazel Morrow-Jones, did some research that showed in the late 90’s early 2000’s that the most important factor in where people choose to buy homes is the perceived investment value of the property. In other words, the momentum of a community is at least as important as the reality. Crime, schools, etc. are huge parts of this equation that create the impression of investment value.

    Perhaps if people feel that they can “get out” if they want to, then they would be more likely to invest. But if you feel you will be trapped in a neighborhood with bad schools and crime, you don’t want to invest.

    Maybe central Indy isn’t as crime-ridden as some places, but if residents in general don’t see any momentum, I think they aren’t likely to invest regardless. A young couple might take a chance on an urban house, but if they don’t think they can sell it and move when they have kids and want a better school system and safer location, they likely won’t buy. Multiply this decision by thousands of families, and you have a declining neighborhood.

  22. John Morris says:

    Late 1990’s – early 2000’s were in the heart of the housing bubble, when many people were buying homes just for investment.

    Even so, the basic truth of “location, location, location proved very true when the bubble burst. Bedford–Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, took a big hit from people who paid more than they could afford at the height of the bubble- but because of the neighborhoods improving prospects, new buyers stepped in.

  23. Idyllic Indy says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading this piece and all the comments. I agree with what some have said that simply adding 1,000 police officers might not have a huge impact on crime, but I think there is a big difference that can be made if those officers are effectively utilized. (For reference, a quick Google search indicated NYPD has ~35,000 officers compared to ~1,550 for IMPD, so NYC has more than 20 times as many officers with less than 10 times the population.)

    I don’t think an exclusively heavy-handed approach would be successful, especially in the poorest communities, because the police need to spend more time interacting and establishing trust with the law-abiding citizens so that both the citizens and the police can understand and believe that they are both there for one another. However, I think that more of a zero tolerance approach to the behaviors that are antisocial but often ignored (loud music, littering, arguments, etc.) could help instill in people an understanding that a higher standard for their behavior will be demanded.

    While I personally feel relatively safe in Indy (and I do live in a near downtown neighborhood), I don’t feel as safe I’d like to. I hear reports of violent crimes in the area (especially those with random victims who aren’t out looking for trouble) and it makes me consider altering my lifestyle by not going out after dark as much. Even if it doesn’t keep me from going out, the added fear does lower my enjoyment of my neighborhood.

    Obviously, the status quo isn’t working in Indy. I can’t imagine that less policing could be part of the answer.

  24. Chris Barnett says:

    JM, I’ve read “Death and Life”. My point is that most of Jacobs’ ideas rest on a certain social order being in place and socially enforceable. It is such a basic assumption of hers that she doesn’t even question it.

    I’m questioning it: behavioral norms (and the social order) are different today. Social pressure in an urban street setting is almost impossible to apply other than with the threat of force or arrest.

    I’m not going to confront on the street a loitering or troublemaking teen (or anyone else) whom I suspect is carrying a pistol. And the miscreant sure isn’t going to worry that I’ll tell his mother that he’s misbehaving.

  25. John Morris says:

    While I agree that there have been huge changes in society, crime in most areas that have decent Jane Jacobs characteristics is pretty low. IN NYC, almost all the really troubled areas are the post “urban renewal” districts or the sprawling areas of eastern Brooklyn & Queens.

    No doubt that fixing damaged communities is much harder than not breaking them in the first place.

    This also seems to fit the stats from the late 18th and early 20th century. What’s surprising is how functional many of the most dense immigrant communities were.

    Of course one can always add some cops.

  26. John Morris says:

    A good test of many average Jane Jacobs neighborhoods in NYC was Sandy. Reports of serious crime were pretty scarce except in the more isolated Coney Island & Far Rockaway housing projects. Community grapevines seemed to point out which people and areas needed the most help.

    I wasn’t living there at the time, but I think police and official aid did not arrive quickly at all in many places.

    A high percent of people affected in lower Manhattan had resources and options but I doubt that explains everything.

  27. Paul Lambie says:

    While I (Idyllic Indy) mentioned above that more proactive policing is part of the answer, I should also mention that I strongly agree that physical planning can help quite a bit as well. Indy appears to have essentially never found a link between physical planning and crime since to this date there are virtually no embodiments of “eyes on the street” philosophy in the zoning code.

    Aside from downtown, there is not the slightest regulation in the zoning or building codes to prevent either house, apartment, office, retail, industrial, institutional or any other buildings from being constructed without a single window or door facing the street. Indianapolis is currently rewriting most of the their zoning codes with the help of a team of consultants paid for with a generous federal grant. I very much hope that the rewritten codes will incorporate many CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) principles.

    Like having more police, it’s not a silver bullet, but it is definitely part of a solution.

  28. Nathanael says:

    Unfortunately, the evidence from controlled studies is that the “militarized police” and “harrass innocent people” approach of Giuliani, Bloomberg, the NYPD, Bratton, Kelly, Broken Windows, etc., was (a) completely worthless, and (b) backfired seriously, in that nobody in NYC or LA trusts the police any more.

    Are you wondering how to reduce violent crime? Well, for starters, read this article:

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

    It’s worth noting that Indianapolis, as a city with a self-defined “car identity”, is a manufacturing city which is likely to have a particularly high level of soil and lead. Furthermore, leaded gasoline continued to be used for racing vehicles in NASCAR (for example) for a very long time after it was phased out of on-road vehicles.

    Environmental toxin factors appear to actually be extremely significant in violent crime rates.

    Once you’ve dealt with *that* problem — which Indianapolis hasn’t — then what’s next? Well, bluntly, Indy has a serious problem with poverty and “haves” vs. “have nots”. Make a community where everyone feels that they are “Indianapolis citizens first”, and you don’t need much policing; things sort themselves out on their own. Make a divided and conflicted community, and you create problems which need policing.

    The Midwest has been really effective at making divided and conflicted communities. I find it hard to describe, because it’s a *vibe* more than anything else. It’s possible that it’s partly due to the isolation created by car culture and that “urbanist” practices may help counter it.

  29. Nathanael says:

    “Serious crimes against persons really are decreasing. ”

    That’s the nationwide trend which happens on a delay after the banning of leaded gasoline.

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