A review of police data by the Arizona Republic indicates that half of Phoenix homicide victims maintained a lifestyle that brought violence to their doorstep, such as being involved in gangs, immigrant smuggling, prostitution, or drugs. The analysis shows that the rate of homicides in low-income communities was four times higher than it was in more-affluent areas, with about 80 percent of the 221 killings occurring in neighborhoods where residents live below Phoenix’s median household income.
One third of homicides were tied to narcotics, while gang involvement claimed nearly 10 percent of last year’s murder victims. “We probably have a dozen innocent victims,” Police Lt. Benny Piña, head of the homicide unit, said after reviewing 2004’s murder list. “Everyone else at some point was involved in a high-risk lifestyle.” Criminologist Jimmy Bell of Jackson State University in Mississippi believes people fail to realize the devastating ripple effects created by drug- and gang-related killings. “They tend to become insensitive to it and numbed, and the consequences of that behavior have far-reaching impact in the community,” said Bell. “If it becomes a lifestyle, young kids are great imitators and they tend to emulate that lifestyle. You lose generations of kids to a deviant culture that is admired and glorified.”