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What Causes Inner City Crime?
The drastic increase in inner city crimes witnessed in the recent years has its roots both in social as well as material conditions. But finding an effective solution to reducing crime rates depends more on shaping our community life, rather than catering to the material needs through social welfare programs. Since 1965 almost $5 trillion dollars have been spent on social welfare programs as a part of the ‘War on poverty’ campaign. But they had little effect on reducing the crime rate. To quote Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) if social expenditure alone could stop crimes, then the United States would have been the safest country on the planet.
Poverty and Unemployment
Though poverty and unemployment have pushed people into criminal activities, they are not the only reasons for crime rate increase. If this was true, then the recessions in 1933 and 1975 should have contributed to abnormal crime rates. But in reality no such phenomenon took place and in fact the crime rates where at an all time high between 1965 and 1970, when the economy made a steady progress.
Another reason which is given for inner city crimes are the easy availability of fire arms in the suburban areas. The gun control advocates, for years have been arguing how in America gun related crimes are high than any other industrial democracies. But the point to be noted is that, even in the rural parts of the country gun ownership is higher but the crime rate is very minimal. The difference is that, in the small town communities the family system is very strong and stable. So the problem is not the availability of guns but the dysfunctional family system prevalent in the inner cities.
Drug use and alcohol use is another factor that have influenced crime rates to an extent. Youth violence is more prevalent in areas where there is high availability of criminogenic substances.
But besides all these above mentioned factors the primary cause behind inner city crimes are more of sociological in nature. Communities with dysfunctional family structures, like divorced males, single mothers, non-working adults, parents with criminal history etc. tend to indulge in more criminal activities, rather than communities with stable family system.
Also neighborhoods with high crime rates have a popular oppositional culture prevalent among them. These communities have been segregated from the main stream for so long, that they develop an oppositional mentality, whereby they tend to go against the established norms and take pride in going against the law.
So, it is evident that the material conditions alone do not influence crime rates as perceived by the policy makers of our country. The social conditions and community life play a rather important hand in determining the criminal inclination of an individual.