Home > Uncategorized > Do Slums Cause Crime?

Do Slums Cause Crime?

Do slums cause crime? Or maybe crime causes slums… Than you have to consider that perhaps it’s something else altogether and that’s when it gets complicated and people stop listening. Luckily I have an answer.

The government. Not just the government, but I argue that government policies are more effective at creating both slums and crime than anything else out there.

Consider that in close knit, but run down neighborhoods there may be very little crime, as in the north end of Boston during the 60’s. The north end, to continue with the example, was populated by Italian immigrants and suffered from low crime rates, low death rates, low amounts of income being devoted to rent and a multitude of other wonderful things. This area, obviously more than what it appeared on the outside, was a wonderful place.

Enter the urban planner.

Parts of the north end were torn down, to be “revitalized”. The areas the residents moved to became crime ridden, the areas that were revitalized also became crime ridden. Quality of life declined sharply. The new and remodeled buildings became slummier than they previously were. What the fuck is going on?

It should be pretty easy to see. People forget that communities are more than a collection of buildings and people. The people that live there have norms and unwritten policies and the closeness of the community is unreceptive to crime and far more likely to take matters into their own hands. People help one another, people care for their neighbor. When these communities are broken up as a matter of public policy, to ‘help’ the less fortunate, these connections are severed.

As you might be able to guess, its likely the breaking up of these communities that leads to higher crime, not the surroundings. Higher crime leads to more risk, for individuals and businesses. That leads to reduced prosperity. So tell me, what is solved by government housing projects and urban “revitalization”? It seems to me that this logical and rational chain of events happens over and over, with no one realizing that the assumptions being made are incorrect, have never been correct.

As with “smart-growth” policies and “open space” policies, they create more problems than they solve and cause more hurt to the people they were intended to help.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. 2011/04/24 at 22:06

    This area, obviously more than what it appeared on the outside, was a wonderful place.

    Enter the urban planner.

    Obviously, well-intentioned folk can mess things up. Of course, we don’t know that this is the case in your example, because not enough information has been given. But it is possible.

    What is ALSO possible, I hope you will agree, is that doing nothing will allow situations to grow worse. For years in my city, we had done nothing about the habit of locating industrial sites in our city’s poorer neighborhoods. Doing nothing has resulted in decreased housing values, increased cancer rates and increased crime.

    I think it reasonable to think that it is reasonable to do some research-based city planning, and failing to do so would be a poor idea. Will all such urban planning end in good results? No, I’d be willing to bet not. But then, so too, doing nothing can end with bad results.

    So, perhaps the best answer is to allow neighborhoods (not industries, but neighborhoods) make decisions for themselves as much as possible, but also recognize that good city planning can be a good thing, if done well. Both/and, not one or the other.

    Fair enough?

  2. 2011/04/24 at 22:18

    Fair enough indeed. Even with things like rent control, you run up against the fact that it has failed every time it’s been tried, yet it’s still common enough. It’s a losing battle to get people to look towards economic reality and put aside what they think should work.

    In my example it is indeed what happened. The same thing happened with Harlem in as little as a decade. Over and over it happened. In so many things like this it is best to let market forces work. Social forces as well.

    It’s not hard to find the data. I’m sure a little sniffing would provide something better than the cold, raw stuff I used for reference. I’ll take a look tomorrow, if you find anything warmer to look at let me know, but I’ll see what I can do, there are probably some articles I can find.

  3. 2011/04/24 at 22:20

    Interesting fact the I forgot to add in, the TB death rate was about 1 in 10,000 in most of the north end. In most of the upscale parts of Bean Town it was much higher.

    I also might have mentioned the Chinatown of San Fran in the 60’s. An area with rampant unemployment, more run down conditions than you could ever hope to find and only 5 people of Chinese ancestry in the whole of California’s prison system in 1965… the only yearly data I could find with adequate racial references. I settled on the north end though.

  4. 2011/04/25 at 07:55

    I’d say that often (not always but often) the planning of the 1930s-1970s (and beyond, probably) that determined it would be a good idea to take poor folk with many difficulties in their lives and group them in public housing tenements has proven to not not have been a good idea.

    On the other hand, urban planning that has designed streets in such a way to slow down traffic has been a good thing, resulting in safer streets.

    Designing cities that encourage the personal auto and discourage walking, biking and mass transit (as has been done in many cities over the last 75 years, though we’re finally getting away from that now) has been a god-awful idea.

    On the other hand, designing streets/cities/sidewalks that ENCOURAGE walking, biking and mass transit has been a good thing, making for safer, healthier cities.

    In Cuba, when they lost access to cheap oil, their economy went into a tailspin (not unlike ours could do). What’d they do? Responded with effective urban planning that created cities that weren’t dependent on cars, that encouraged small scale gardening everywhere and resulted in healthier living for many people.

    In short: Good urban planning is good. Bad urban planning is bad. Choosing to do nothing can be bad or good, although I’d lean towards planning.

    Failing to plan, as they say, is planning to fail.

  5. 2011/04/25 at 09:22

    You are I are on very different parts of urban planning I think. I’ve never heard anyone claim that street layouts and things of that nature are bad ideas. I do dispute one thing.

    People should have automobiles. The simple reason is that when trains got big you had people criticizing them for, as the than Duke of Wellington said “allowing the common people to move about needlessly”. It isn’t up to some urban planner to design a city in which cars are inconvenient, which is something that is becoming more and more common, you are right. It’s the urban planners business to design a layout to make them not necessary perhaps. Making that call of whether or not to punish those with automobiles isn’t something the city should be doing.

    I also think Cuba has been a disaster, sure people have been able to get around, but it suits the government just fine to control the means of that movement. It’s also been so nice that they can get to the jobs that pay them practically nothing and that they can get to the shops that have nothing to sell. I’m not sure where people really have to go in Cuba, so I’m not certain its the best example. The small scale gardening is also a direct result of food shortages, not urban planning, and as we all know, something grown at scale is cheaper and more available than something grown locally on a small farm or in your backyard.

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