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Thursday, Apr. 24, 2014

Labeling a problem does not solve it

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

St. Louis and Kansas City both reported substantial increases in their murder rates this past year. Kansas City saw a massive 40 percent increase while St. Louis posted a 15 percent jump. Neither city is proud of the numbers, as you might expect.

We could discuss the reasons for this violent increase and never fully come to an agreeable explanation. But one criminologist at the University of Missouri-

St. Louis has me a bit puzzled with his explanation.

Scott Decker explains that most of the St. Louis murders are geographically concentrated (which, by the way, is always the case). But he goes on to say that the murders are in neighborhoods that are the most economically and "socially repressed."

Now I'm certain that Mr. Decker has forgotten more about crime than I will ever know. After all, he's an expert and studies crime on a daily basis. And then, I assume, he teachers others what he has learned about crime.

But I'm puzzled by the term "socially repressed." I assume that is his way of describing poor, black neighborhoods because that is exactly where the murder increase is coming in St. Louis --the two large minority districts. Those two areas had increases of 30 and 50 percent.

But what is "socially repressed"? That seems like some excuse to justify the violent increase. It makes it sounds as if some how society has created a situation where neighborhood residents resort to violence.

A leading police commander in St. Louis also tiptoed around the reason. Capt. James Gieseke said the victims share some traits: they are usually black men in their late teens or early 20s with "similar lifestyles." Doesn't it make you want to know what those "similar lifestyles" might be?

Here's the bottom line. The drug culture and the mysterious issue of "respect" are to blame for the murders in our urban centers. Those involved in the murders fall into those two categories time and time again. And those twin issues are by no means isolated to the urban centers. The same applies in our region as well.

Until we find a way to halt the murder of young black males by other young black males we'll see a constant increase in violence.

But I still return to the term "socially repressed." Does that somehow mean that their upbringing did not educate these Missourians that it is wrong to kill someone? What level of social repression leads someone to murder another human? And more importantly Mr. Decker, what in God's name can society do to remove "social repression" from our society?

You see, it's much easier to pop a label on a problem than it is to offer a workable solution. But then again, what else is new?



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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen