The color of crime

Are we forgetting that over 69 percent of the U.S. population is Caucasion?

Paul Hamilton

The most disturbing trend I have noticed since my return to the University after a twenty-year hiatus would most definitely have to be the recent reports of an overall increase in crime within and around the University campus.

I was appalled last semester when I sat next to a young man in a class who recounted to me his experience of being robbed and then physically brutalized by two assailants.

I told him and a few other students within our immediate proximity “when I went to school here the first time, a person could pass out drunk in the middle of Dinkytown and nobody would even bother them.” However, I was assuredly told that this was no longer the case, and in fact one young lady said she planned to move out of the area because the crime had gotten so bad.

It seems to me that if the University can raise millions of dollars in a relatively short period of time to help build a brand-new football stadium, then that same effort could be put into programs to help keep all the people here safe.

If we need more or better-trained officers, get them, if we need more or better security cameras, buy them, if we need a new and better way to inform students of a campus-wide emergency, then let’s figure it out.

Whatever is needed to help ensure the safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors at this University should be paramount over, or at least equal to, our new super cool football stadium.

And since we are on the subject of crime, who is committing all this crime anyway? Not just in and around campus, but nationwide? According to national crime statistics it would be blacks, Caucasians, Hispanics, Asians and then other ethnic minorities.

The ratio of Caucasians to blacks in this country is almost seven to one, yet the number of the majority population behind bars is only 34.72 percent. Blacks, who constitute only 12.32 percent of the U.S. population, make up 43.91 percent of the national federal and state incarcerated prison population.

Quite frankly, this doesn’t make any common or statistical sense (I guess my mother-wit meter is going off) unless there are numerous mitigating and extenuating circumstances; perhaps some inexplicable outside artificial forces, which are deliberately manipulating or are tantamount to having that effect on the lives of blacks in this country.

Some potential problems with current statistical crime information may lie in the following areas: reported verses unreported crimes, the types of crimes focused on by criminologists, the educational and employment opportunities afforded to minority populations, the neighborhoods targeted by law enforcement professionals, the types of crimes focused on in those particularly minority neighborhoods, the numerous stereotypes associated with various minority populations, and the under-representation of minority groups in the halls of justice in particular and governing (or government) in general.

I would assert that the census numbers alone point in the opposite direction of what we normally think of and hear when it comes to crime in America.

What would you say if I told you that the most likely person to end up on welfare in this country was a single Caucasian female with two children? How many of you wouldn’t believe it even though it is absolutely the truth? The statistical numbers bear this out.

But is that the picture portrayed in the television news media, in newspapers and magazines, and on the Internet in this country?

No. I would say that 95 percent of the time we hear about welfare in this country it is associated with blacks or other people of color.

According to many well-respected social scientists and criminologists, there are apparently no statistics or studies that can be referenced when it comes to white-collar crime. Quite frankly, the powers that be aren’t that interested in locking up those who look and act most like them, so I guess its ok that we just don’t keep track.

I would take that one step further and say that not only do we turn a blind eye to the crimes committed by the majority population, but also we disproportionately commit the majority of law enforcement time, effort, and resources to keeping poor minority filled neighborhoods on edge by instituting a constant police presence with the obvious intention of both deterrence and intimidation.

The issue on its face seems easy to me. Invest on the front- end or pay dearly on the back-end. Did you know it costs more to incarcerate someone for twenty-years to life than it would be to educate them to the level of a Ph.D.?

And we don’t even have to be that ambitious with it, what about just to the level of a college undergraduate or a person with a journeyman’s skill level in the trades?

It seems absurd to spend so much on the Iraq War when we have so many pressing needs at home. Our infrastructure is in desperate need of repair, our neighborhoods are being ravaged with foreclosures and our minority populations are still being incarcerated at alarming rates. I am certainly a proponent of security for the United States and global stability, but I don’t see how neglecting many of our own countries needs contributes to that sought after sense of stability.

For example, how many 4-year minority (or majority population) college scholarships does 3 billion dollars a month pay for?

How much better could our public K-12 education system be overall, how many more stable housing opportunities could exist, or how many more bridges would not potentially fall down?

What if we had invested 36 billion a year over the past six and a half years in education, housing, and infrastructure programs?

Perhaps the real crime in this particular case is that “the powers that be” have not recognized that if we are going to let the Chinese and other countries finance our debt for something, we should have them finance our country’s revitalization instead of this global war on terror.

Paul Edward Hamilton welcomes comments at [email protected]