California: Over the last five years, African-American suspects accounted for 65% of Oakland’s killings
Junious Williams, the chief executive of the Urban Strategies Council, a group in Oakland that studies urban poverty and crime, said the increase in homicides was prevalent in many predominantly African-American cities. Over the last five years, African-American suspects accounted for 65 percent of Oakland’s killings, according to a study by the council, and 77 percent of victims.
“Most of the cities experiencing increases in homicides have black pluralities, if not majority black populations,” Mr. Williams said. “Here in Oakland, the majority of the crimes are being committed by young brothers.”
Poor educational opportunities, high unemployment and a criminal justice system that reinforces criminal behavior have led to an “honorific culture” akin to that of the Wild West for many inner city black communities, said a Harvard sociologist, Orlando Patterson.
Respect for traditional social norms was on the decline, Mr. Patterson said, in the face of a growing hip-hop culture that puts an emphasis on street credibility for respect.
Some criminologists argued that the recent increases signified that the historic declines in crime in the late 1980s and 1990s had bottomed out after abnormally high levels in the wake of the crack cocaine epidemic. Tougher sentencing guidelines, widespread incarceration and the subsiding crack trade have run their course, these criminologists say, and without those overriding factors, crime rates are returning to more natural, regional levels.
“Even the kind of crime we’re seeing now is nowhere near what we were seeing in the early 1990s,” said Jack Riley, a researcher at the RAND Corporation, a research organization in Santa Monica, Calif.
Whatever the debate nationally about a crime trend, many people who live and work in Oakland are seeing more death at their doorsteps.
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