Saturday, January 21, 2006

Thug culture and the city's homicide rate

Deputy Chief Morris Tabak recently made a convincing defense of the SFPD against charges that it was somehow responsible for not preventing the rash of recent homicides in the city:

There is virtually no way to prevent these homicides because most are spontaneous and occur indoors...they are not a result of police inaction or indifference...The reality is every year[in a big city], there are going to be between 50 and 60 homicides...Holding the Police Department accountable for every homicide is like holding the Fire Department accountable for every fire, or holding the Department of Public Health accountable for every disease ("Police Mount Stern Defense of Homicide Record," Marisa Lagos, Jan. 19, 2006, SF Examiner).

And more cops walking beats in the Western Addition and Hunters Point---and other "community policing" nostrums---is unlikely to stem the tide of violence, particularly gun violence. But this reality doesn't seem to stop people---politicians and journalists, in particular---from demagoging the issue.

In its current issue, the SF Weekly does some of that, quoting Bill Barnes: "The police can go out and make an arrest...But if the DA isn't going to bring charges, what's there to fear for criminals?" ("Let it Bleed," Martin Kuz, SF Weekly, Jan. 18-24, 2006) The gist of the Weekly's article: Maybe---or, gee, maybe not---the city's recent gun violence is the result of the DA's failure to bring charges against homicide suspects. On the one hand, Kuz quotes Amos Brown, always good for a simple-minded soundbite, who claims that city cops like to see blacks kill each other: "Their idea of investigating is, 'Let them blow each other away...'" And Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi: "Right now...people feel like they can get away with murder pretty much anytime they want."

On the other hand, Kuz talks to DA Kamala Harris and others who remind us how difficult it is to build a criminal case when the standard of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt." If you don't have evidence and witnesses, bringing charges against a suspect is an expensive exercise in futility. Public Defender Adachi defends Harris: "Cops want every case charged, but Harris doesn't just rubberstamp cases." Police Inspector Kevin Silas: "Sometimes you do everything you can, and it's[the evidence] still not there."

Nevertheless, Randy Shaw and Casey Mills at the ultra-left BeyondChron use the recent spike in the homicide rate in SF as just another stick to use on Mayor Newsom:

Until yesterday’s Chronicle story, it seemed that few outside Supervisor Mirkarimi’s office remembered the Mayor’s pledge about community policing. While these plans were stalled since August, many believe, fairly or not, that far swifter action would have occurred if white people were being killed in predominately white neighborhoods...Perhaps more troubling: the root causes of homicide, including poverty, quality of education, and lack of opportunity remain off the table when discussing the issue.

I like the weasly "fairly or not," which is supposed to absolve the writer from even trying to determine whether the charge of racism against the mayor is justified. And the "root causes" trope is a favorite of pseudo-intellectual progressives. As long as they can ruminate ponderously about "root causes," they apparently think they don't have to address the specifics of an issue. (The "root causes" riff was a favorite of Matt Gonzalez when discussing homelessness in his campaign for mayor in 2003. A majority of the city's voters were unimpressed with Gonzalez's leftist rhetoric on homelessness, wisely choosing to go with Gavin Newsom's more specific Care Not Cash approach to the squalor on city streets.)

One of the main reasons the police and the DA have a hard time making a case in some of the recent gun homicide cases is the "code of the street":


"The ethical code of the street," says Inspector Antonio Casillas, a 10-year veteran of the homicide unit, "is that it's wrong to be a snitch." Tyrone confirms as much in justifying why he waited until his arrest in August to talk to authorities about Ford's murder. "Nobody tells cops nothin', 'cause if you get somebody arrested, you can end up dead."

But lefties and other demagogues don't want to talk about the "code of the street" issue, a k a, the thug culture that dominates these communities, terrorizing those---like witnesses to murder---who want to do the right thing. Cynthia Tucker, who is black, is the latest to enroll in the struggle against the thug culture fostered in the country's black neighborhoods by the rap/hip-hop industry:

A black-oriented cable channel, BET, plans to air a new unscripted show celebrating Kimberly Jones---a.k.a. Lil' Kim---for her crimes. Promotional ads for the show, "Countdown to Lockdown," declare that Jones entered prison with her "mouth shut, head held high, as she refuses to snitch." Jones, a rap star, recently began serving a year and a day for lying to a grand jury investigating a 2001 shootout between her entourage and a rival rap crew. BET is playing her lawlessness for all the money it can make...The popularity of thug culture is among the most serious of modern-day threats to black America, far more dangerous than any lingering institutional racism. ("Thug Culture Threatens Black America," Cynthia Tucker, SF Chronicle, Jan. 16, 2006)

Don't hold your breath waiting for city political leaders to engage on this issue, because progressive ideology dictates that this sounds too much like blaming the ghetto for its problems. The truth is that most black people don't like thug culture any more than the rest of us, but it's holding their communities hostage, and their so-called political allies---including their elected representatives---seem unwilling to do anything about it.

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