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High-crime areas and low-crime areas

By Joseph L. Bass

Most Americans spend their lives in high crime areas or areas with little crime. I have lived in both.

The worst place I called home was South Central Los Angeles. One night, a couple of teenagers shot and killed another teenager and wounded several others outside my apartment. On another night the same year, a man was murdered for a $20 bill he had just withdrawn from an ATM. Hearing gunfights many nights was common.

What are the differing characteristics of high and low crime communities? It should be possible to determine the reasons for rates of high and low crime by determining how the two types of areas are different.

I used to take people on a tour I call “Looking at Suffolk through Different Eyes.” I recently took our new pastor on the tour. The idea is to travel through an area with little crime and another area known for having far too much violent crime.

Because most people do not travel outside their own community or communities like it, it is not uncommon for people to be surprised about how others live here in the same city.

What are the different characteristics of high and low crime communities and what might be learned from the differences?

When driving through the low-crime area, the first thing people should notice is what is not there. For example, seeing a police officer is unusual. Because of this, it cannot be assumed that policing is what makes for reduced crime.

Also, there are no government buildings anywhere nearby. The two closest government buildings are eight and six miles away, and both of them are branches of the city library. Beyond one of the libraries is the new combined police/fire station farther down Bridge Road, near I-664.

For most of Suffolk’s history, the only police station has been more than 20 miles away, near the high-crime area.
The community focus in the low-crime area is on a self-reliance that often involves shunning of government in community activities. Most activities for children and adults are carried out through churches and independent organizations.

When driving through the high-crime area, people notice a concentration of police. This is an indication that policing does not result in low crime.

There are two stations in downtown, a little over half a mile apart. A wide variety of services is available in or near the high-crime area designed to attempt to meet a variety of social needs.

That is to say, the major characteristic of the high-crime area is heavy dependency on government services, housing and provisions.

Based on a reasonable conclusion from what people observe on the tour, government efforts should focus on helping people be more self-reliant and finding ways to reduce government dependency.

This calls to mind John Kennedy’s words, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

More citizens becoming self-reliant will help Suffolk and our nation.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at ABetterSociety1@aol.com.