Oakland's Poverty and Oakland's Crime –
Ordinary and Extraordinary
Here's a typical statement attempting to connect crime and poverty in Oakland:
"You have to understand that spikes in violence, and violence in general, are very complex issues, so there's nothing in the community specifically, other than the things that we know traditionally, that contributes to violence. That is education systems being poor, lack of resources, poverty, things like that." So said the executive director of the Mentoring Center to a KCBS reporter. (Feb. 16, 2008)
The facts just do not support this mush. Oakland is the fifth or sixth most dangerous city among the 300 or so largest cities in the country. Oakland has two and three times the crime rate of other major cities in California. Yet poverty in Oakland is not exceptional.
Oakland Has Poverty Rate the Same or Less than Other Cities
Percent of individuals below poverty level
(Source: U.S. Census, American Fact Finder data, 2005-09 data)
It is reasonable to believe that poverty generates a base level of crime in all cities. The fact remains that Oakland has a terrible public safety problem, even though its poverty rate is average.
The causes of the public safety problem in Oakland must lie elsewhere.
For one thing, Oakland has half a police department compared with most major cities. That's a pretty direct association: fewer police, more crime.
Instead, City Hall gives funds and official blessings to promote the thug culture of disrespect. For example, the city council granted millions of dollars of Measure Y tax money to Youth Uprising while it contracted out its youth members to make a hyphy video promoting sideshows and while the agency welcomed gutter rapper Too Short to preen before youth as a hero and a "career counselor."
It is no surprise that the director of the Mentoring Center spouted thoughtless talk about complex causes and poverty. Her job was to grab City grants for the organization's social programs. Just as illogically, those programs do nothing to reduce poverty, but they offer the illusion that a rescue line is thrown out to youth. It's a warm, fuzzy image, much more comfortable than realizing that we need to enforce the elementary rules of peace, as well as find a way to change the economy of the whole country.
The next time you hear someone spout the same garbage about poverty in Oakland, ask them about the above chart. The occasion will probably arise often as mayor Quan rewards the poverty pimps who campaigned for her.
– Dec. 26, 2010