The Black (or Minority) Crime Myth

Yesterday, I read Why is the N.Y.P.D. After Me? and it brought up a few issues which I’ve thought about before but have never actually put to words. While I’ve not had the same experience as Nicholas Pert, I have had a few of my own. One took place while I was living in Tallahassee. My first weekend living in the city, I’d bought a bike from the thrift store next to my apartment complex and decided to go for a ride that evening to get a feel for what was around me. After riding around in different directions from my apartment, it started to get dark and so I decided to head home. As I’m riding back, I notice a cop car coming up the road behind me and as it approaches me, the lights come on. I pull over and stop to wait for them to go by but the car just stops behind me. A cop gets out (white), walks up to me and asks to see my ID. Even though I had it with me, I felt the whole situation was unwarranted and told him I didn’t have any ID on me. The cop then tells me that he pulled me over because I was riding my bike in the dark without lights (it was dusk, sun was setting yes, but still a good amount of visibility) and that I should make sure to carry ID from now on.

But this hits a bit closer to home because just a couple days ago, I had this experience. I’m heading to my car to go to a restaurant. As I’m about to cross the street to get into my car, I notice a cop driving up the street so naturally I wait. The cop who was previously doing about 30mph slows down to about 10mph as I walk into the street and towards my car. And seems to creep along at a slow pace until I open the door. Fast forward about 15 minutes to when I arrive at the restaurant. I get out of my car and again need to cross the street. I’m waiting for traffic to clear when a police van pulls over two parking spots ahead of me. They remain there while I enter the restaurant, wait for my take-out order, pick it up, walk out, and start crossing the street again.

Ten years ago, I would not have even linked the two in my head or would have just written it off as pure coincidence. But between everything I’ve experienced since my high school junior college tour, even I, who for the most part didn’t grow up with an adversarial relationship with cops and even now feels at ease with casual interactions I’ve had with them while out in Pittsburgh, I still felt a vaugue sense of unease which only got worse. Anyway, reading some of the comments, this one caught my eye. Not that it was exceptional, but that it was predictable. Well, today I address the issues I have with such statements.

This is of course a disappointing story but a the same time as some have argued the statistics show that young Black males may commit a disproportionately bigger percentage of crimes in NYC; Just as White males are more likely to be serial killers.
This does not mean Blacks are congenitally criminals or that white males are genetically inclined to be serial killers.
I think what we need to be asking here is .. why are the young Black males committing these crimes? Lack of opportunity for good schools ? or even more painful… broken families so no role models ? Anyway we need to look at the root cause and not symptoms.
Nevertheless Police needs to be trained to have some good customer service. A few bad apples perpetuates a negative image. Maybe the Police can say they don’t care, but would it not be nice if these young Black males saw you as friends and not enemies.. then they may even help you reach the goal of reducing crime. This could change to a battle of hearts and minds. we apply this in foreign countries but why dont we do this with our own people?

Let us answer this with a simple analogy. Pretend for a moment that people of every race commit crime equally, say 1 in 10. And in my city, there is a population of 1000 whites and 1000 blacks (so 100 of each are criminals). If the only cop in the city arrests blacks at a 2:1 rate to whites, when crime statistics are compiled, it would seem that blacks commit twice the crime. When new crime policy is made, in an effort to “keep it real” and focus on who is committing crime, rather than crime prevention in general, you now get legalized and institutionalized practices which further bolster and sustain the false statistic.
The point is that statistics are based on available data. If there is a bias in the dataset, there will be a bias in the statistics. Even if blacks commit crimes at a rate 100 times less than every other race, if they are arrested at 10 times the rate of others, statistics would show that blacks get arrested more. Anyway, the good thing about this commenter is that he later addresses issues such as crime prevention and improving relationships between law enforcement and the communities with which they have an adversarial relationship. But it is annoying and sad when people make comments which show they just don’t have a clue how past racism can still have significant effects today, even if a lot of that racism is gone.

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