In predominantly African-American neighborhoods of U.S. cities, far too many killers have gotten away with far too many crimes for far too long, fueling a disastrous murder epidemic, says Jill Leovy of the Los Angeles Times in a new book, “Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America.” Solving serious crimes of violence in black communities should be a top goal for law enforcement, and it deserves to take priority over more widely discussed issues such as racial profiling and excessive police use of force in black neighborhoods, from Ferguson to Staten Island, she writes in the Wall Street Journal.
Impunity for murder and assault is a failing of the criminal justice system and an historic injustice specific to African-Americans—a legacy of underpolicing that reaches back to the days of Jim Crow. It may seem paradoxical, but the police tactics that protesters have recently denounced as harassment and discrimination overcompensate for a weak police presence in these neighborhoods, Leovy says. Today's controversial policing tactics are part of a law enforcement model in which prevention is everything and vigorous response an afterthought. Officers are better at stopping people at random than at tracking down those who do real harm; they are better at arrest sweeps than at investigating major crimes.