Violence and poverty are often intertwined in many African American communities. Most of the crimes that takes place in America is committed by the African Americans. Most of these crimes are traced to the poverty that is quite prevalent amongst this group. The poverty inherent in the black community has some historical background dating back to the slavery period when the blacks were greatly disadvantaged because of lack of access to higher education, job opportunities and health care facilities. (Albert R. et al 1993)
The African American community makes up 12% of Americas total population yet 40% of the prison population is made up of them. Many studies have been carried out to fully understand why crime is prevalent in these particular group and many theories have been forwarded as to the main causes of the high crime rates. Causes of crime are always the same everywhere, and it is evident that where ever these causes are exasperated there is a marked increase in the rate of crime. . (Albert R. et al 1993) Chief among those causes are poverty, lack of education, unemployment and the breakdown of the family unit.
About 70% of all babies born in the African American community are born to unwed mothers leading to those children being brought up in a single parent situation. The children grow up without the input of the fathers as breadwinners and most importantly they grow up without a father figure in their lives who would provide male supervision. As a result of this the problem it eventually becomes a double edged sword where crime and poverty are the twin scourges that cut without mercy. http://california. resourcesforattorneys. com/californiaissues/index. php? m=04&y=07&entry=entry070428-175722
Besides these disturbing statistics these root causes are never acknowledged by those in authority and are swept under the carpet to never to be addressed in the long run. Often times the exasperated causes are whitewashed and blamed on the past historical mistakes of slavery and civil rights abuses and anyone trying to oppose this view stands the risk of being identified as a racist. (Sklar, Holly1995). What this eventually means is that the causes are ‘insulated by political correctness and proliferated by men’s refusal to acknowledge and address them”.
To fully comprehend the situation it is very important first to give a short historical background of this particular problem. (Harris, Cheryl I. , 2006) The social economic conditions amongst the African American community have tremendously declined since the 1960s during the time of the civil rights movement. Many of the black leaders have terribly failed their community because they have been unable to come out boldly and tell their people the true picture, insulating them from the reality and always shift the blame to racism and their historical background.
As much as injustices were committed in the development of the community it is important for everyone to accept the reality and look for solutions rather than excuses. (Harris, Cheryl I. , 2006) The leaders keep telling them to continue depending on government programs and return to the church to resume their quest for “heavenly deification instead of earthly realization” what is always echoed by these leaders to their community is more of prayer than actual planning and miss out to address the importance of self actualization. (Sklar, Holly1995). There’s a great correlation between poverty on one hand and crime and violence on the other.
In America being poor means that one is predisposed to grow in crime-ridden and devastated neighborhoods. This also translates into growing up without a father and attending educational institutions where the academic performance is very low. So how has poverty brought about the raise in crime? by the time poverty makes a full cycle, it leaves in its wake a devastation that no one is able to comprehend leave alone address. With poverty there is rise in the abuse of drugs, increase of divorce and prostitution resulting into abortions, increase in child abuse and violence in the family and eventual breakdown of the family unit.
Most young and energetic youth end up facing the justice system that is never skewed their favor and they end up in incarceration Family breakdown As has been discussed earlier on in this paper the African American community has continued to suffer because of the breakdown of the family unit and this could be the basis of crime. Most children are brought up by single parents (mothers in most cases). This means that unless the parent has well paying job they are most likely destined for a miserable life of poverty. http://www. timefortruth. citymaker.
com/articles/article/3544618/52758. htm This means that child lacks the upbringing of both parents and most likely the mother is never available because she is the main bread winner. Therefore from the word go the moral standards of such children are likely to be compromised in one way or another. Such parents are always likely to stay in ghettos (the only place they can afford) where there are very high rates of crime, drug abuse, abortion, prostitution and divorce. The environment within which the child grows is therefore a major influence of who they will grow to become.
(Deborah P. 1991). The children in such setups are not likely to access quality education and may end up dropping out because of lack of finances or the morale to move on. By the time the child reaches the age of maturity he/she is faced with the dilemma of pursuing educational careers or giving in to the pressure from colleagues who are most likely deeply involved in crime, the latter always takes the upper hand. By the time the child becomes on adult, he/she is deeply involved in crime or lacks the educational qualification to get a well paying job.
(Deborah P. 1991). Therefore the likelihood of an African American teenager becoming a drug addict, a social misfit, alienated from the rest of the world and with a bleak future is extremely high. This child eventually will turn to crime to earn a living; they do not know any other life. Here they stand a very high chance of being incarcerated in prison or murdered. Such a background is an obvious catalyst for a future inexperienced single parent and an absent father, this cycle thus never ends. (Deborah P. 1991).
The criminal justice system in a way has also continued to play a very big role in the incarceration of the members of the African Americans; studies have revealed that members of this community stand higher chances of being arrested than their white counterparts. (Gomez, P1994). They also stand a higher chance of receiving heavy sentencing compared to other races. Stereotyping against the blacks has continued also to play a big role especially amongst the law enforcement officers who are likely to be more aggressive towards the blacks as compared to the other races.
(Gomez, P1994). However, not all is lost and the future for this community is not as bleak as some would want it believed. There has been a marked decline in the rate of crime in certain states in American that are predominately African American. Some factors that have led to such declines include the rise of the middle class amongst the African American and most importantly community policing programs in these areas that were started a while back with a view of involving the community in bringing down the crime rates.
Previously the strategies that the police were using were more than ever before alienating the police force from the community . During the 1970s the main police strategy that was in use was the preventive police patrol cars which were meant to increase “citizens feelings of safety” and effectively prevent crime. This strategy did not work because statistics continued to indicate that the police were losing the war on crime. Crime rates amongst the black communities in America’s largest cities where the police forces were established were increasing by the day. Thus there was a need to review the strategies used.
Moreover the African American community had lost faith in the police force out of the belief that the police and the justice system were partial against the community. Therefore there was a need to come up with a totally different strategy and the answer was fond in community policing, a program started early in the 1990s in the U. S. Community policing is very different from the traditional policing methods because of certain characteristics. Amongst these are: • Organizational decentralization where authority and accountability are empowered to the districts or geographical regions.
• Involvement of the community in coming up with priorities and problem identification which means that civilians are involved in neighborhood security projects. These characteristics ensure that the suspicion between the police and the “policed” is broken down. Chicago is a very good example of how successful this program can get. Since the program was started in the 1990s there was an increase in confidence the public had in what the police were doing and this in turn reduced drastically the prevalent crime that was in this area.
There was a notable decline in crime especially amongst the African American districts. Statistics show that robbery reduced to 63% between 1991- 2002 a total decline of about 100,000 in a period of less than 13 years and a 10-15% increase in public police confidence. http://www. ncjrs. gov/pdffiles1/nij/189909. pdf. When the community policing started in Chicago the process involved 3 parts. The first part involved the decentralization to districts and to beats with each city being divided into smaller 279 beats each allocated 10 specific officers who were called “beat officers”.
Because the patrol cars had numbers on top, Chicagoans were able to identify themselves with them, depending where one came from. The second part is where the community got the opportunity to be involved, here several subparts were included. The various beats conduct monthly meetings where the officers get to interact with members of that community including youth officers and gang officers. In a month on average, approximately 250 meetings are held, recording up to 6,700 monthly attendances. http://www. ncjrs. gov/pdffiles1/nij/189909. pdf.
At these meetings the police are given the opportunity to report back to the community what they have done since the previous meeting. Of importance, the meetings are best attended in areas where crime is high; areas where the population is predominant African Americans. This is an indication that indeed the African Americans in these areas also understand and realize the cost of crime and they would be willing to help curb the runaway crime. It is critical to note that crime affects these particular communities than any other. In fact most of the crime is committed by the blacks against the blacks
Another aspect in this part is where the community is involved is the problem solving, where the people have a chance to participate in projects of problem solving. Another part in this process is where the community shows its support for the prosecution effort. This is called the “court advocacy part” where residents turn out in court sessions as witnesses and bystanders. http://www. ncjrs. gov/pdffiles1/nij/189909. pdf. The 3rd and final part in community policing involves “service blitz” which are done by the Chicago police department.
In the service blitz, instead of police moving in an area and making random arrests they participate in cleaning up the area off abandoned cars, trimming overgrown bushes and fixing faulty streetlights. They involve certain civilians who are in charge of mobilizing the community for the beat meetings. Three Civilian organizers who are on the department’s payroll are selected in each of the 25 districts. http://www. ncjrs. gov/pdffiles1/nij/189909. pdf. Conclusion Crime is crime regardless of who commits it, this is an undeniable fact.
However, the underlying causes of crime are common in every society; most crime is as a result of the lack to a means of livelihood or poverty. Poverty has a spiral effect on the social fabric of the community within which it exists. It leads to the breakdown of the family unit as we know it leading to a never ending cycle of destruction it its wake. Poverty is not an excuse to commit crime but it is a very active catalyst to create the right environment for crime. References Albert Reiss, Jr. and Jeffrey A. Roth (1993). Understanding and Preventing Violence “Patterns of Violence in American Society” page 43-100
Deborah Prothrow-Stith, M. D (1991). Deadly Consequences “An American Tragedy” DeKeseredy, Walter et al. (2003). Under Siege: Poverty & Crime in a Public Housing Community. Lanham, MD: Lexington: Flowers, Ronald Barri (1988). Minorities and Criminality. New York: Greenwood Press, Gomez, Placido G., (1994) The Dilemma of Difference: Race as a Sentencing Factor, 24 Golden Gate U. L. Rev. 357 Harris, Cheryl I. , (2006) Whitewashing Race: Scapegoating Culture, 94 Cal. L. Rev. 907 The real advocates of abortion in the African American Community: Retrieved on 23rd March 2008 from
http://www. timefortruth. citymaker. com/articles/article/3544618/52758. htm Retrieved on 23rdMarch 2008 from http://california. resourcesforattorneys. com/californiaissues/index. php? m=04&y=07&entry=entry070428-175722 Sklar, Holly(1995). “Chaos or Community? ” Seeking Solutions, not Scapegoats for Bad Economics. Boston: South End Press, U. S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs: Taking Stock: r e s e a r c h Report Community Policing in Chicago: Retrieved on 21st March 2008 from http://www. ncjrs. gov/pdffiles1/nij/189909. pdf.