The Washington Post recently published an article titled, "Want to Cut Crime? It Takes a Neighborhood." This article discussed how a neighborhood can become susceptible to crime depending on how people and businesses move in and out. It made me think about a book I read in school, When Work Disappears, by William Julius Wilson. This book talks about the issues that the inner-city poor have with obtaining employment in easily accessible areas. Wilson interviewed inner-city store owners and managers and found that they didn't want to hire people from the neighborhood because they saw them as a risk, due to what Wilson termed "ghetto-related behavior." Wilson also pointed out that unskilled jobs that still pay a livable wage have been disappearing from inner-city neighborhoods, creating a domino effect that leads to poor education, poor public transportation, and a "culture of poverty" in which neighborhoods can rapidly decline.
With poor (if any) education, a serious lack of job opportunities, and few options for employment or personal betterment outside the immediate neighborhood, is it any wonder that some residents of these communities turn to a life of crime? Perhaps if we follow the ideas set forth by Wilson, which include strengthening school systems and creating city-suburban partnerships, crime rates in these communities will start to fall.
Richard Florida poses an interesting theory on how to strengthen inner cities in his book "The Rise of the Creative Class." Florida puts forth the concept that in order for urban cores to become strong, cities need to attract the young professionals who are looking for many outlets for diversion, from museums to biking trails, coffee shops to night clubs. Also, this sector of the community is looking for what Florida dubs "plug and play," which he defines as a place where people can instantly feel a connection to the area, which will keep them from leaving. Cities can be ranked on Florida’s "Bohemian Index," which determines the strength of the creative class.
I believe that just as each person is unique, each city is unique and has its own set of problems. Therefore it would be very difficult to provide one blanket answer that would work across all communities. What do you think? Is the answer to strengthening poor urban centers a collaboration of the entire urban community and providing better education to all? Or is it attracting a specific class of people to the urban center that can cause an economic upturn and a decrease in crime?