Blumstein: Does ‘Obama Effect’ Help Hold Down Urban Crime?


Rates of reported street crime are down nationally, but violence remains a problem in many urban communities, says criminologist David Kennedy of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “There are places where people are literally afraid to go outside,” Kennedy told the annual H. F. Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America yesterday. Kennedy attributed at least part of the crime decline to an “emerging sensibility that none of this is acceptable.” Criminologist Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University speculated on the possibility of an “Obama effect,” in which some young black men are more optimistic about their future because of the president's election, and refrain from violence.

Seth Williams, the newly elected district attorney In Philadelphia and first black elected prosecutor in Pennsylvania, said that in his city, African-Americans “are killing ourselves; we're putting the KKK out of business.” Williams pledged to try understanding “the connection between economic development, education, public health and public safety.” He noted a common characteristic of men accused in the city's six recent police officer killings: all were truants or school dropouts. Williams lamented the tendency to use incarceration as a solution to the crime problem, saying that Philadelphia incarcerates seven times as many people as it did three decades sago, “but we are not seven times safer.”

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