In the second of a series on the “crime factory” of zip code 64130, the Kansas City Star describes how a federal program to help poor people buy homes brought in families with no home ownership history. Many lacked money to maintain their homes and yards. Houses fell into disrepair. A 1975 government report cited the area's “rampaging deterioration and abandonment of housing” as a serious problem that would drag down the entire city.
The 2000 census said more than one in 10 of the ZIP code's 11,000 housing units were vacant. Residents say the problem has worsened. Though poverty and related social problems do not lead to crime, it is what a criminologist calls “the garden in which this stuff flourishes.” A core of highly concentrated poverty became fertile ground for the influx of crack cocaine and gang activity that tore families and neighborhoods apart. “It turned a lot of people into monsters,” said inmate Kevin Hurley, serving a life sentence for killing a shopkeeper in a robbery. “You smoke it and you just stop caring.”