Monday, May 10, 2010


Crime in the City

This is an example, from today’s New York Times, of why my father moved us out of New York City almost 50 years ago. Some teenagers were having a birthday party at an apartment in the Bronx:

Witnesses said that a group of older, seemingly drunken men entered the party, at a first-floor apartment at 1776 Weeks Avenue in Tremont, and behaved inappropriately with some of the younger female guests. That prompted an argument and a fight before the men left the apartment.

Thirty minutes later, about 2 a.m., as some from the party spilled into the building’s lobby, the men returned with guns and began firing, witnesses said.

While tourists and visitors from the suburbs are, these days, mostly safe in the city, residents — in some areas more than in others, clearly — have a day-to-day risk that accumulates to significance over time. Break-ins, burglaries, robberies and other personal attacks... these are far too common, still. Murders are down, we hear, but, of course, that’s little consolation to the families of these victims.

What I always want to know when I hear about these sorts of things is what makes people behave worse than wild animals? Sometimes it’s subsistence, when attacking someone for his money, or stealing his things to sell, is the only way one knows to eat and survive. But stories like this just make me shake my head in disbelief, to see that people can be so callous, so senselessly violent.

I wonder why, and I wonder whether there’s any way to address it, to change it.


Nathaniel Borenstein said...

Two things that might help:

-- Much higher spending on education

-- Aggressive reduction of the gap between rich and poor

When you're poor and uneducated, you are likely to have no hope, which can lead to acts of foolishness and desperation. It's a stereotype, but I bet those men with guns were neither well educated nor affluent

Barry Leiba said...

Yes, I get that, and yes, I'm sure the gunmen are everything you say. Still, this was not an act of desperation (that's killing someone for his money, because you need it), and goes far beyond foolishness. And the vast, vast majority of poor, poorly educated people still have scruples.

I also have trouble writing this off as a combination of alcohol and group mentality, both of which were certainly factors.

All that said, I agree that both things you suggest are important and would help.

Nathaniel Borenstein said...

Not an act of desperation, no, and certainly not an act with any semblance of a justification. But probably the act of people who feel they have nothing to lose.