Urban Should Not Mean High Crime & Poverty

In China and elsewhere, many apparently think that the more urban the area, the safer the area.

A lawsuit against the University of Southern California over the violent crime deaths of two Chinese graduate students alleges that, given that the online application says the school is in an urban area, school officials should have known that the Chinese would interpret that to mean a safe area.

First of all our hearts go out to the slain Chinese students and their families. As far as the lawsuit, it’s silly. When applying to a college it’s prudent to find out the crime statistics of the surrounding area. A simple Google search will do that. Moreover I’ve been to China and have spent lots of time around Chinese, yet never got the impression that the Chinese associate “urban” with “safe”, as far as crime goes. And to be sure, I just asked a Chinese whether, prior to coming to America, she associated urban with more crime or less crime. She said more crime. Besides, there are 38,000 students at USC. If two of them fall victim to violent crime, that means you have a 1 in 19,000 chance of the same. Those odds are probably a lot safer than most places.

Nevertheless, I could see how someone from another country could be unaware that in the United States, urban and especially inner city are associated with higher crime. That’s because in many other countries, inner city is not necessarily associated with higher crime.

We Americans take it for granted that inner city means high crime. But in fact, the inner city is not a “natural” place for crime. We artificially made it that way – “we” meaning American federal, state, and especially local governments and the people who voted them in. To borrow from something I wrote before:

“The areas of high concentration of poverty are determined largely by the location of subsidized housing.” The federal decision long ago to locate subsidized housing projects in America’s inner cities prompted many lower-income people – and criminals who tagged along with them – to relocate there or to stay there.

To drive home the point, in France, certain suburbs are associated with high crime.

“A similar thing happened in France decades ago, when authorities decided to erect its subsidized housing projects in the outer suburbs of Paris. They were a magnet for poor immigrants, and they are where many of the rioting youth now live. Unemployment is as high as 50 percent in some neighborhoods.”

So there’s a “pull effect” created by government programs like subsidized housing. There’s also a “push effect” created by government policies, pushing out businesses and responsible citizens through such measures as a higher minimum wage compared with the surrounding communities, higher taxes on businesses and individuals, and a tortuous system of licenses and regulations. As noted here, a business owner tried for years to get a license to set up shop in New Orleans, to no avail.

Of course, in America these days, it’s not just the inner city anymore that’s crime-ridden. It’s suburbs too. Take my own metro area. Several decades ago the University of Maryland College Park was in a county – Prince George’s – that was just as safe as practically anywhere else. But now the crime rate is higher in Prince George’s County compared with D.C.’s Virginia suburbs.

That’s because of the push effect and pull effect described above. Maryland and D.C. are bastions of the Democratic left. I think of all of those liberal/left professors at the University of Maryland College Park, and how their workplace is surrounded by what their politics have wrought. They provide the anti-intellectual firepower for the liberal/left agenda that’s implemented by the nation’s federal, state, and especially local governments.

The result? Driving businesses away, pulling criminals in, and making the area less safe for human habitation.