Day By Day

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Immigrants and Crime

Consider this:

Philadelphia is losing one resident a day to violence, recording 196 homicides through the third week of June. That is slightly ahead of the total at this point in 2006, a year that ended with 406 homicides, the most in almost a decade. On the first day of summer alone, six people were killed in Philadelphia in three street shootings.

Nobody really knows for sure what has caused the recent upsurge in murders in east coast cities, but theories abound. Some say it is due to easy availability of firearms; others point to differential police practices. Here in Baltimore people tend to attribute it to the drug trade, but that's just a knee-jerk response, we always blame it on the drug trade.

One theory seems to fit the facts better than the others. All of the cities afflicted by a dramatic rise in homicide rates are ones with relatively few Hispanic immigrants. Other cities, like New York and Los Angeles, that have absorbed large numbers of immigrants, have not seen their homicide rates rise.

AP reports:

PHILADELPHIA - Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities in a bloodstained corridor along the East Coast are seeing a surge in killings, and one of the most provocative explanations offered by criminal-justice experts is this: not enough new immigrants.

The theory holds that waves of hardworking, ambitious immigrants reinvigorate desperately poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods and help keep crime down.

It is a theory that runs counter to the widely held notion that immigrants are a source of crime and disorder.

“New York, Los Angeles, they’re seeing massive immigration — the transformation, really, of their cities from populations around the world,” said Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson. “These are people selecting to go into a country to get ahead, so they’re likely to be working hard and stay out of trouble.”

Read the whole thing here.

Well..., it does seem to fit the facts.