Low-income and non-white neighborhoods are often plagued by crime, but the real problem facing these neighborhoods isn’t crime. It’s a lack of investment in education and other social services. In this week’s column, “A Plea For A Right To A Safe Neighborhood,” Leonard Pitts Jr. writes:
You want to fix Liberty Square and places like it? Fine, improve the policing. But also fix the schools and give every child a quality education. Offer job training. Provide incentives that bring commerce and industry to the area. Encourage the restoration of nuclear families. End the drug war.
The model of holistic solutions already exists in pockets of hope around the country, including Purpose Built Communities in Atlanta and the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York. So there is no mystery here. We know how to fix these bad places. What we lack is the wit and the will.
Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, once spoke of how people resist him investing, say, $3,500 a year to help some poor kid in some struggling uptown neighborhood. But when that kid turns 18, they think nothing of spending $60,000 a year to incarcerate him.
In other words, you can spend less and produce a citizen who pays taxes and otherwise contributes to the system — or you can spend more to feed and house someone who only takes from the system. That ought to be a no-brainer. It’s not liberal, it’s not conservative. It’s mathematical.