Why Some Cities Seem Both Safe and Dangerous

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An Associated Press analysis of homicide data shows how some large cities seem to be getting safer and more dangerous at the same time. Slayings in Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis are becoming concentrated into small areas where people are dying at a pace not seen in years, if ever. Around them, other areas are growing more peaceful, even as the total number of homicides rises. “There’s two different worlds,” said Anthony Beverly, who grew up in Indianapolis and now runs an organization called Stop The Violence. “Downtown is just popping. … We struggle.” The AP collected 10 years of homicide data from the cities that had the highest homicide rates in 2016. Reporters used spatial analysis to identify clusters of killings and track the changing geographic patterns over time. The neighborhoods with the most violence were largely poor and African-American, as were the killers and the victims. Researchers say the disparity may be linked to increased joblessness, segregation and the growth of the so-called wealth gap. Over the past three decades, the wealthiest Americans have grown markedly richer while low earners lost jobs and struggled and some turned to violence.

The trend goes beyond problem neighborhoods and trendy, low-crime enclaves that are found in almost every city. The inequality between the two realities deepened in recent years, allowing people in the same metropolis to live in one realm with little sense of the other and creating districts of despair where everyone has seen or had someone close to them shot or killed. Daniel Hertz, a Chicago-based policy analyst, has argued for years that citywide homicide statistics are “basically meaningless” because of the big differences. Looking at smaller geographic areas, he said, gives a far more accurate picture.

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