The Plank

Killing Time


A horrible trend that is sadly, brutally evident in my own D.C. neighborhood of Adams Morgan: According to a new study co-written by Northeastern University criminologist extraordinaire James Alan Fox, between 2000 and 2007 homicides among young African-American men skyrocketed--a 31 percent increase as victims and 43 percent as perpetrators--even as most communities saw a drop in murder rates.

Fox and his co-author, Marc Swatt, found these rates were “consistently true for every region of the country and nearly all population groupings of cities,” suggesting the problem is the result of national trends. Indeed, Fox and Swatt argue that the rise closely tracks a declining emphasis on federal policing and violence-prevention programs.

The report doesn’t cover Washington, D.C., but those who live here will find little to surprise them. Every week there is a new, shocking story: A young man mistakenly killed on a playground by gang members looking for his brother; a home invasion in which assassins killed a man in front of his son; a gang shooting at suburban Westfield Mall, in Wheaton, Md. Homicides declined in 2006 but increased in the last two years, even as rates dropped in other Mid-Atlantic cities. The real tragedy, though, is the complete disconnection between the national and global power centers in official “Washington” and the struggling, at times bumbling “District.” We should all cross our fingers that Obama’s promise to do more for Washington will be more than campaign filler.

 --Clay Risen

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