Baltimore, Philadelphia, and other cities along the East Coast are seeing a surge in killings, says the Associated Press. One of the most provocative explanations offered by criminal-justice experts: not enough new immigrants. The theory holds that waves of hardworking, ambitious immigrants reinvigorate desperately poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods and help keep crime down. “New York, Los Angeles, they’re seeing massive immigration – the transformation, really, of their cities from populations around the world,” said Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson. “These are people selecting to go into a country to get ahead, so they’re likely to be working hard and stay out of trouble.”
Anther possible factor behind the wave of killings is a failure to adopt some of the innovative practices that have reduced violence in bigger cities; the availability of powerful guns; and a shift in emphasis toward preventing terrorism instead of ordinary street crime. Some cities “never bothered to institute the reforms, policies and programs that impacted violent crime because they felt immune from what they saw as big-city issues,” said criminologist Jack Levin of Northeastern University. “Now they’re paying the price.” University of Pennsylvania criminologist Lawrence W. Sherman is proponent of the theory that immigration exerts a moderating effect on crime among poor black men. “Cities that have heavily concentrated and segregated African-American poverty are the places that have increases in homicide,” Sherman said. “The places that have lots of immigration tend not to have nearly as much segregation and isolation” of poor blacks. It seems a plausible way to account for the big difference in the trajectory of homicides” in stagnant cities versus ones with lots of immigration.