Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Black crime in the suburbs

Mike Seate writes about how the murder rate in the suburbs has increased as more black families move there:

But what makes the growing homicide rate in Penn Hills so notable is just who is doing the shooting. Most of the shooters in recent events have been African-Americans, a group who, a good decade or two ago, barely were visible in the area.

Since 1990, the black population of Penn Hills has doubled from 13 percent to 24 percent, according to the 2000 Census. The rate of aggravated assaults and homicides using firearms has escalated slowly over the past few years, police say.

It's as if black Pittsburghers have finally made enough advancements to move away from inner-city ghettoes, but some of us flatly refuse to leave our ghetto ways behind when we reach the 'burbs.

This is anything but a new story in our region. The arrival of blacks into previously all-white communities is the principal backstory to the development of our city's eastern suburbs.

Blacks moved eastward from the Hill District during the mid-20th century to Homewood and East Liberty. By the 1970s, white residents of those areas responded to growing crime rates by moving east to places such as Verona, Plum and Penn Hills.

As blacks pressed onward to Wilkinsburg and eventually Penn Hills, white flight began in earnest in those neighborhoods.

At this rate, in a few generations the white population of Western Pennsylvania might find itself building gated communities 30 miles offshore of the Atlantic Ocean.

Or maybe their black neighbors could stop playing into the sort of violent stereotypes and prison-yard machismo that's threatening to eventually turn Penn Hills into another Homewood.

A study conducted last year under the auspices of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services found definite links between certain city neighborhoods -- the Hill District and Homewood, for example -- and shootings in Penn Hills. Folks seem to be moving to the suburbs and carrying their neighborhood beefs, grudges and rivalries along with them like old lawn furniture.

More evidence that black crime causes white flight.

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