At John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York last week, says St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Ruben Rosario, “Alfred Blumstein, perhaps the Alan Greenspan of American criminologists, was among the academics to note that last year’s national crime increase is mostly a Midwest and medium-sized city phenomena – happening in places like Kansas City, Cincinnati and, yes, Minneapolis.” Both the violent crime surges of the mid-1980s and the recent spike are spearheaded by young disenfranchised men with easy and instant access to guns. The face of violent crime in urban America for at least the past quarter century is young, male, and dark-skinned.
The question, says Rosario, is why we haven’t done more to curb this than merely arrest and incarcerate. “I think it’s about race and class. Period.” said Dean Esserman, Providence, R.I., police chief. “Murder in America today is a young man on both sides of the transaction–and it’s tolerated because the people in power are not affected by it.” Said University of Minnesota law Prof. Michael Tonry: “Public identification of crime as a critical issue has changed enormously through the depiction of the black suspect. The crucial element of American crime policy is that it’s somebody else’s kid. As long as it’s somebody else’s kid, we will continue to have a hard time getting a handle on it.” Esserman and other police chiefs contend that Washington is turning a blind eye to such critical domestic affairs. They expressed concern about lack of resources on the law enforcement and social front because of local and state budget cuts and federal funding diversions to the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism.