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An 'Antiviolence' Boondoggle in Murder-Plagued Chicago

Claire Groden has this article in the WSJ:

Two summers ago a home invasion by gang members on the city's South Side went wrong when one of the robbers shot another one in the back of the head, according to Chicago police. Sixteen-year-old Douglas Bufford was killed, and 19-year-old Jermalle Brown was charged with first-degree murder. His trial begins on Aug. 15, and it may attract more attention than usual in a city plagued by violent crime, just as his arrest did. Why? Because at the time of the shooting, Douglas Bufford and Jermalle Brown were also on the Illinois state payroll, earning $8.50 an hour to hand out antiviolence pamphlets.

Such are the bitter ironies of Gov. Pat Quinn's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, a now-defunct $54.5 million program whose failures are under new scrutiny as the Illinois governor, a Democrat, campaigns for re-election in November. Mr. Quinn launched the anticrime plan four years ago to "take on the root causes of violence in neighborhoods all across the city of Chicago." That didn't happen. Over the first two years of the initiative, the Chicago murder rate rose 20%, and the murder rate within city limits today is triple the national average. A state audit of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, or NRI, suggests that as much as 40% of the program's funding was simply wasted.
We should be extremely skeptical of anyone claiming "to take on root causes" of crime.  The primary root cause is cultural decay, government's ability to change that is limited, and few of the people using the term "root causes" have any intention of addressing it.  Mostly they seem to be interested in diverting the government program that has actually worked in reducing crime -- strong law enforcement.


The "Neighborhood Recovery Initiative" is the first cousin of, and created from exactly the same airhead thinking endemic in, "alternatives to prison." The notion that mush can effectively replace enforced restraint is both foolhardy and, as this episode shows, dangerous.

People do not become thugs for the lack of some fatuously-named government program. They become thugs because they never developed a normal conscience.

"The primary root cause is cultural decay ... "

What was the violent crime rate per 100,000 in NYC in 1968? How does that compare to the latest available rate? If the '68 rate was higher, it seems as though the cultural decay explanation is on shaky ground, unless NYC's culture has improved over the last 45 years.

I tend to agree with Bill's lack of a normal conscience theory. But that still begs the question of why, for example, Chicago is, per capita, producing so many people without a normal conscience. And why people in Salt Lake City, for example, have a much more developed conscience as evidenced by the much lower per capita violent crime rate.

One of the shortcomings of the press is that it tends not to connect the dots on this. Quinn's support for this boondoggle is not an isolated incident. When he's not trying to fill the coffers of SEIU on the backs of moms taking care of disabled children (see Harris v. Quinn), he's releasing violent criminals after a short stint in prison. (Quinn was heavily criticized for releasing a homeless guy who severely beat a woman who refused his request for a cigarette.)

With some notable exceptions, e.g., Jay Nixon, Dems tend to be soft on crime.

Anti-poverty programs from the 60's boosted the non-marital birthrate in the inner city. Hard to say whether the high non-marital caused cultural decay or the normalization and acceptance of single mother households caused the decay but it is clear that inner city youth are suffering from the lack of a stable, in-home, male role model.

What should we make of the fact that the Chicago police report that homicide and crime in the city are this year at the lowest levels since 1963?


I obviously cannot check these data, and I certainly am disinclined to credit Quinn, but they at least seem to suggest a different story according to the men in blue.

The story linked in the OP says murder is up 20%. There appears to be a discrepancy in the statistics. Sometimes these differences are legitimate differences in methodology. The NCVS and UCR sometimes diverge, for example. Sometimes someone is cooking the books. I don't know what's happening here, to be honest.

I think by definition a violent criminal lacks a "normal" conscience. As to property crimes it is probably more varied, in my opinion at least some theft is of the rough equivalent of Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread.

I do not think there is much the government can do aside from incarcerating violent criminals at least once a person evolves into a criminal. However, I think a more proactive juvenile justice system that focused on removing kids from bad environments could be helpful in reducing the next generation of thugs.

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