Has Los Angeles fixed its gang problem?

by on January 9, 2015 at 2:36 am in Current Affairs, Law | Permalink

That is the new and excellent Sam Quinones article from Pacific Standard, here is one excerpt:

Some of this is a state and national story, as violent crime declined by about 16 percent in both California and the nation from 2008 through 2012. But the decline has been steeper in many gang-plagued cities: 26 percent in Oxnard, 28 percent in Riverside, 30 percent in Compton, 30 percent in Pasadena, 30 percent in Montebello, 50 percent in Bell Gardens, 50 percent in El Monte.

Santa Ana once counted 70-plus homicides a year, many of them gang-related. That’s down to 15 so far in 2014, even as Santa Ana remains one of the densest, youngest, and poorest big cities in California. “Before, they were into turf,” says Detective Jeff Launi, a longtime Santa Ana Police gang investigator. “They’re still doing it, but now they’re more interested in making money.”

No place feels so changed as the city of Los Angeles. In 2014, the Los Angeles Police Department announced that gang crime had dropped by nearly half since 2008.

Obviously this is welcome news, not only for its own sake, but also for those of us who have been arguing that Latino immigration is going to work out.

1 Andrew M January 9, 2015 at 3:16 am

Gangs fight over drug-selling territory. Each one defends their patch, resulting in frequent violent disputes with neighboring gangs.

Cellphones and the Internet have disrupted this model. Today your typical cocaine buyer orders online or by phone. The supply chain is organised electronically too. Gang violence has no utility in this new business model, and people don’t kill without a financial incentive. The underlying cause of gang violence has been significantly reduced by technology.

The same applies for gangs involved in prostitution rackets (though far fewer than drug-related gangs): you can find a good hooker online, complete with reviews by other customers. Why would either buyer or seller risk the streets?

2 Inquiring Mind January 9, 2015 at 7:37 am

“you can find a good hooker online, complete with reviews by other customers.”

Ahem, ahem, where?

3 Bob Z January 9, 2015 at 9:51 am

Your google-fu is very weak…

4 charlie January 9, 2015 at 9:28 am

I don’t know. I still a lot of black men at corners, selling plastic bags of something in exchange for cash.

The alleged drug “supermarkets” seem to be down. Maybe that is where the money was.

5 Nathan W January 9, 2015 at 10:19 am

Indeed, it is the creation of this turf that causes most of the problems linked to drugs which have been classified as illicit, in my opinion.

6 Quite Likely January 9, 2015 at 12:44 pm

This is an excellent point that should be discussed more. I wonder if the reason it’s not is that anti-drug people don’t want to imply that scary new ways of getting drugs are actually beneficial, while pro-drug people are just generally trying to avoid panicking the anti-drug people by bringing up the new ways people buy drugs.

7 Sam Haysom January 9, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Good point. No one has ever gotten killed because they tried to pass of excessively cut cocaine or because someone got jumpy during a drug deal. The drug gangs aren’t fighting right now because they black gangs are being ethnically cleansed out of their neighborhoods and the Mexican gangs are distracted by the chaos in Mexico and haven’t been able to devote time to taking over neighborhoods in LA. But let’s add a million or so people from Honduras, Guatemala and Belize I’m sure there are no Honduran gangs who might be inclined to set up in the U.S.

8 Tom January 9, 2015 at 8:39 pm

I think this is a big part of the reason. Turf warring still exists and it’s still a big portion of US homicides. And not only over street selling. The gangs also occasionally come after independents selling out of their apartments. They come posing as buyers. But there’s a lot less turf warring. If you were entering the drug pushing business today, the last thing you would do is make the big investments in lives and inculcation of extreme loyalty that you would need to take on a turf owner.

The dislocation of blacks from their traditional neighborhoods by Latinos might have a little to do with it. But the blacks didn’t disappear, they just moved. I would think the gangs are simply having a harder time recruiting an extreme risk lifestyle. The kids just aren’t that eager to die. So the gangs that use less violence and put their soldiers at less risk of violence grow. You haven’t seen the Italian gangsters dropping in big numbers for decades.

Have you ever seen the wildlife program about the lizards who go through alternate periods when bullies dominate, sneaky guys dominate, and loyal guys dominate? Drug dealers seem to be transitioning into a sneaky guys era.

The theories about lead and unruly psychology are way off mark. Drive-bys are cold and calculated, not spontaneous and emotional.

9 Brenton January 10, 2015 at 4:10 am

Please show evidence that turf wars are a big portion of US homicides… I’m pretty certain that they’re a very small percentage.

10 Art Deco January 10, 2015 at 5:12 am

Agreed. My hometown has a wretched problem with slum homicides and no gangs at all.

11 Chip January 9, 2015 at 4:55 am

Reduced gang crime seems a pretty low standard for saying Hispanic immigration is going to work out, especially when the reduction comes from more convictions under RICO and gangs deciding to avoid violence to secure profitable yet illegal activity.

What is the net cost or benefit to the treasury of an immigrant after ten years. That’s the kind of standard you should be assessing.

12 The Anti-Gnostic January 9, 2015 at 7:30 am

Right. Like, what’s the cost to have a militarized police force arrest everybody in the neighborhood, prosecute them under federal RICO, and dump them in prisons across the US? All because Tyler wants authentic, cheap chalupas when he visits Los Angeles.

13 dead serious January 9, 2015 at 10:29 am

Probably nothing compared to the cost of legions of necessary financial regulatory bodies and laws to combat a corrupt banking/trading system.

Interest rate rigging, energy price rigging, pyramid schemes, insider trading, shorting the stocks you sell your customers (normal Goldman practices in general)..

14 The Anti-Gnostic January 9, 2015 at 10:50 am

Be quiet you silly hippy. How many social engineering schemes do you think your precious welfare state could fund without a central bank to rig interest rates and a preferred dealers network to bail out? You want a highly liquid market in public and private debt and mortgages and car loans and credit cards for everybody who can fog a mirror then you will have to pay for it.

15 dead serious January 9, 2015 at 12:48 pm

I work in the field, so I know from what I speak.

As usual, your default assumption is that things have to be the way they are. Corruption must be baked into a functional banking system in your deranged head.

Also, I am vehemently anti-illegal immigration. I just think that right wing wackadoos like you like to point fingers in one direction a little too often.

16 Jeff R. January 9, 2015 at 12:57 pm

I agree. The financial system is corrupt; therefore, Hispanic crime rates are nothing to worry about.

17 mpowell January 9, 2015 at 1:53 pm

I don’t think you understand the point. Maybe it would be expensive to properly regulate the banking industry. Maybe this expense would be worth it. I don’t know. But even the banking system we have brings substantial net benefit. There’s no good argument that we should get rid of it. But allowing increased immigration is a real choice within certain limits. And you can look at the cost with and without different levels of police enforcement. The drug/gang violence is one angle on this question. But that could be largely addressed through drug legalization. It won’t happen anytime soon, but the libertarian free borders people aren’t being inconsistent there at least.

18 dead serious January 9, 2015 at 2:59 pm

I understand the point.

We should spend more money to fix one kind of crime, which is localized and in the grand scheme of things, minor.

But we shouldn’t spend more money to fix what is a widespread scourge and a kind of crime that indirectly touches everyone with a retirement account, and directly ruins the lives of those unfortunate enough to be swindled out of life savings.

Libertarians, which on this blog means Republicans, are guilty of continually focusing their fiscal and social outrage on the left tail of the financial bell curve.

This is the point.

And these statements:

“But even the banking system we have brings substantial net benefit. There’s no good argument that we should get rid of it. But allowing increased immigration is a real choice within certain limits.”

are pretty slippery. So in your opinion the current banking system is net beneficial (which I agree) but “increased” (whatever that means) immigration is possibly not. You’re comparing apples to oranges here, you realize? Current state versus vague future state. If banking corruption increases ten-fold, the net benefit statement no longer holds, right?

Republicans & Libertarians agree that regulations – especially financial, medical, and environmental regulations, should be curtailed if not eliminated wholesale. On immigration, Republicans want to limit it; some Libertarians want to limit it and some want to allow unfettered movement between nations.

Libertarians who rant and rave about regulation and government intrusion but who want to curtail the freedoms of people to come into this country are the most inconsistent, irrational people on the interwebz. They’re not really libertarian: they’re just conservative in the true sense of the word, though even that has lost its meaning since the nation they want in conservation can be from the time of the founding fathers or from the 1950s (and probably nothing later).

19 The Anti-Gnostic January 9, 2015 at 4:15 pm

“but who want to curtail the freedoms of people to come into this country are the most inconsistent, irrational people on the interwebz”

The libertarian hypocrisy is that they want Open Borders, not No Borders, because in the case of the latter people get to draw their own.

The taxpayers are perfectly in their rights to condition and even prohibit entry into the country their taxes support. Israel, for example, sharply restricts Arab and African immigration. Canada still has migrant workers which the employers are required to cloister so they don’t make any new Canadian citizens to strain the common weal. Where’s the outrage?

20 Art Deco January 10, 2015 at 5:15 am

You have an affection for non sequiturs.

21 john January 9, 2015 at 9:39 am

You have a US state with a Hispanic name, large cities with Hispanic names, and large populations descended from Spanish occupation. Why would you think immigrants form gangs? They have not been generations in the barrio. Their kids might take that path, if it is the best they can imagine, but parents come to work.

22 Larry Siegel January 9, 2015 at 12:15 pm

>You have a US state with a Hispanic name

Which one? Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Montana, or New Mexico?

23 Mondfledermaus January 9, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Nevada maybe?

24 Al January 9, 2015 at 1:50 pm

You forgot Nueva York

25 JWatts January 9, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Well technically, New Mexico isn’t a Hispanic name. Mexico is a Mesoamerican name. Specifically, the proper name of the Aztecan empire was the Mexica Empire. /pedantic wink

26 Nathan W January 9, 2015 at 10:18 am

I thought we were talking about gang problems, not whether people’s natural right to move to where the jobs are should or not not be based on whether there is strictly a benefit to the treasury (never mind the economy as a whole or on average).

27 The Anti-Gnostic January 9, 2015 at 10:27 am

There is no such thing as a “natural right to move,” no more than there is a natural right to import labor and socialize the costs on the taxpayer. All movement off your own property requires the permission of an adjacent property owner.

28 Andrew M January 9, 2015 at 10:57 am

There isn’t even a natural right to own property. It’s only thanks to the government’s intervention, evicting squatters from your land, that you even get to own property in the first place. Property ownership requires the permission of society (delivered via government, police, judiciary, etc.).

29 The Anti-Gnostic January 9, 2015 at 11:00 am

I can see a natural right to own property as an extension of a right to your person and hence the fruits of your own labor. But that aside, it’s a little simpler than you put it; if you have enough guns, it’s yours.

30 Jan January 9, 2015 at 11:26 am

But of course, just as you don’t have a right to property without some government, one doesn’t have a right to guns either.

31 Thelonious_Nick January 9, 2015 at 11:38 am

I have well-armed relatives in the Ozarks who would disagree strenuously with this assertion, and back it up with a warning shot.

32 TMC January 9, 2015 at 12:21 pm

I’d say you have a right to everything.
Things that are banned are by a societal agreement.
Sometimes I don’t agree.

33 dead serious January 9, 2015 at 12:50 pm

“I have well-armed relatives in the Ozarks who would disagree strenuously with this assertion, and back it up with a warning shot.”

Nothing a couple of carpet-bombing sorties can’t sort out pretty quickly.

34 Sam Haysom January 9, 2015 at 12:59 pm

I guess dead serious’s logic is that illegal immigration is a problem that could be sorted out with land mines. Do the white gloves only come when the left is fantasizing about violence against Southerners and conservatives?

35 Nathan W January 9, 2015 at 4:04 pm

David Hume has a lot of interesting stuff to say about the matter, if you can wrap your head around his 18th century efforts to work from a theory of cognition to understanding of the theoretical bases of the modern state, with the legitimacy of property being a very key question addressed in his works.

36 JWatts January 9, 2015 at 6:41 pm

“Do the white gloves only come when the left is fantasizing about violence against Southerners and conservatives?”

That’s not the only case, but it’s consistent. Most Leftist’s don’t even consider it hypocritical. In their own minds, there’s no inherent conflict between objecting to “hate” rhetoric by conservatives and using the same type of rhetoric against them. If questioned about it, many will readily rationalize such a double standard of “white males” being held to one standard and “minorities” being held to another as justified by historical differences in political power.

37 Nathan W January 9, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Property is not natural. We made it up.

But it generally works quite well.

38 The Anti-Gnostic January 9, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Where did lions and elephant seals get the idea?

39 Jan January 9, 2015 at 4:53 pm

They don’t have property. They have beef with other animals.

40 The Anti-Gnostic January 9, 2015 at 4:59 pm

They even have property lines which they mark.

41 Sam Haysom January 9, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Property is innate to any tool making animal. How it evolves from there is up to the development of the species.

42 JWatts January 9, 2015 at 6:44 pm

“Property is not natural. We made it up. ”

As other posters have already pointed out, territory is a common concept known throughout the animal kingdom. You might as well say that grooming or talking is not natural, but something we made up.

43 dead serious January 10, 2015 at 8:08 am

So is killing. Killing is “natural.”

44 Nathan W January 12, 2015 at 11:53 am

Being territorial is not the same as building fences.

Let them come and fight them out for the jobs, if you can.

Yesterday’s beef is today’s jobs. And you want to build fences rather than mark your territory and fight for the beef.

45 K. January 9, 2015 at 7:36 am

How much of this is just gentrification and gangs moving elsewhere? There was an NYT article a couple years ago that suggested that South Central was becoming a neighborhood of young professional couples looking to buy an affordable home. Dr. Dre may have come straight out of Compton, but now it’s just a hipster carrying a latte.

I suspect the gangs are entrenched in other areas that have gone on to become the token poor neighborhoods, maybe not even in LA.

46 sk January 9, 2015 at 7:53 am

And ironically enough, said hipster might just be wearing headphones that made Dr. Dre one of the wealthiest entertainers in the world.

47 Benny Lava January 9, 2015 at 8:15 am

Because violent crime is dropping nation wide. So there is no corresponding spike in another city.

48 prior_approval January 9, 2015 at 8:20 am

But the fear never stops growing.

As does the number of people who let that fear triumph over any facts.

49 V January 9, 2015 at 8:55 am

I think the facts as per the Heritage Foundation report are pretty stark– low skill immigration is a terrible idea unless you are an employer looking to depress wage increases

To rebut this pretty basic conclusion, pro illegal immigration advocates have to use laughable methodologies (e.g., dynamic scoring), heroic assumptions (e.g., IQ will massively rise despite the lack of evidence), etc.

50 JWatts January 9, 2015 at 6:49 pm

“pro illegal immigration advocates have to use laughable methodologies …”

Don’t forget the oft used comparison of wages versus taxes paid. I’ve read more than one paper that states immigrants make wages of X, but only cost Y in taxes and X>Y so immigrants are net contributors to society. Of course there is a giant hole in that logic but it seldom get’s mentioned.

(Hint: tax rates are << 100%)

51 Nathan W January 12, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Why would you bother to talk about IQ when you’re talking about people who come from places where education quality is lower, never mind the cultural bias built into these so-called “intelligence” tests.

People who mention IQ tests in a context of immigration are basically racists who turn to simplistic measurements as a means to justify their false sense of superiority.

How well do you think you’d do in an intelligence test if you had to write it in your second or third or fourth language, where the test was designed by people from Chinese or Kalahari culture?

52 TMC January 9, 2015 at 12:23 pm

“So there is no corresponding spike in another city.”
American city. Immigrant flow between the US and Mexico has reversed in recent years.
Just pointing it out, not that this is really the reason.

53 careless January 10, 2015 at 8:26 pm

If by “reversed” you mean “is net positive into the US again after a minor hiccup”

54 Michael January 9, 2015 at 1:30 pm

The article addresses this pretty directly. In short, yes, that’s a big contributing factor. However, their new locations don’t have anything close to the density, either in gang recruits, nor in drug buyers, to sustain the old-fashioned gang culture, and so it just kinda quietly recedes. Note the article’s reference to “commuter gangs”, partly old-timers who go to the old neighborhoods mostly for nostalgia.

55 Al January 9, 2015 at 2:05 pm

There is more about “commuter gangs” in this 2014 LA Times article.

In addition to experiencing nostalgia, some members of the Echo Park Locos gang commute back to their old neighborhood to tag the trash cans and stop signs with “ExP”. The article also contains an interesting description of the nostalgia they seek:

“At least once most weeks … a 31-year-old Echo Park native who asked to remain anonymous because he has connections to the gang — commutes back to his roots.”

“He grew up in a second-story apartment on Echo Park Avenue in the 1990s.”

“When he was 19, the landlord raised the rent by $20 a month. His mother refused to pay until the leaky plumbing was fixed. That never happened and they got evicted. His brother and sister moved in with friends and his mother went to a shelter. He stayed in the empty apartment alone until someone changed the locks.”

“Eventually, the family settled into a place in Eagle Rock. It was bigger, but he says it was too quiet. No gunshots, helicopters or sirens. So he takes every opportunity he gets to head back to Echo Park.”

56 Art Deco January 10, 2015 at 5:21 am

How much of this is just gentrification and gangs moving elsewhere?

Are there municipalities in greater Los Angeles where the homicide rate is increasing, and if so by how much? (With regard to metropolitan New York, the answer is (1) a few and (2) not by a contextually significant amount).

57 frothferous January 9, 2015 at 8:51 am

What role did lead abatement play in this trend…

58 Andrew M January 9, 2015 at 12:17 pm

In California, lead was banned from the start of 1991: so the timescales fit your theory. The Federal ban came in five years after the California ban; so if we see similar falls in gang-related crimes in states which banned lead later, your theory will hold.

59 msgkings January 9, 2015 at 2:04 pm

But that’s no fun! Let’s use this topic to talk some more about why brown people need to GTFO

60 The Anti-Gnostic January 9, 2015 at 4:36 pm

The blacks have already gotten the FO, and underclass Latinos are following.

Probably all those Klansmen moving to LA and nothing to do with yuppies noticing that the place has great weather or city government noticing who pays more taxes.

61 Art Deco January 10, 2015 at 5:24 am

The Federal ban came in five years after the California ban; so if we see similar falls in gang-related crimes in states which banned lead later, your theory will hold.

Sure, bivariate analyses of factors out of the sociologists imagination are probative. (And, while were at it, the vogue for unleaded gasoline dates from about 1971, not 1991).

62 mark breslauer January 9, 2015 at 9:32 am

“They’re still doing it, but now they’re more interested in making money.”
A natural evolution – sounds just like what was portrayed in The Wire.
See Stringer Bell’s product meeting – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6E0gvmBnxp4

63 MOFO. January 9, 2015 at 9:50 am

The other possibility is that LA is going the route of Chicago and New York and just lying about their crime numbers:


64 MOFO. January 9, 2015 at 9:54 am
65 bellisaurius January 9, 2015 at 10:14 am

Possibly, but the crime victimization surveys jibe trendwise with the FBI numbers. http://www.familyfacts.org/charts/830/violent-crime-has-declined

The number fudging happens, for sure, but two separately conducted pieces of info agreeing with each other means that something is most likely happening.

66 MOFO. January 9, 2015 at 10:42 am

I have no doubt that crime generally is going down, or at least, violent crime. That does not necessarily mean that LA’s violent crime has really gone down.

67 Larry Siegel January 9, 2015 at 12:17 pm

The old, high crime numbers were also fudged. Crime really is down dramatically as confirmed by victimization surveys.

68 Al January 9, 2015 at 12:56 pm

The LA Times recently reported on this phenomenon too.

Excerpt from the Dec 2014 article:

For more than a decade, the Los Angeles Police Department has pointed to year-end statistics showing big drops in crime as proof the agency was making the city safer.

But as 2014 draws to a close and the numbers show violent crime has climbed for the first time in 12 years, Chief Charlie Beck has struck a decidedly different note.

“One thing we’ve become trapped in doing is looking at crime year-to-year, month-to-month, day-to-day,” Beck told reporters earlier this month. “When you do that you don’t get a clear, overall picture.”

His comments came after months of questions about the accuracy of the LAPD’s crime data, which the department has long used to set crime-fighting strategies and assess the success or failure of various operations.

69 Art Deco January 10, 2015 at 5:26 am

The other possibility is that LA is going the route of Chicago and New York and just lying about their crime numbers:

Critics of Rudolph Giuliani have gotten desperate.

70 Nathan W January 9, 2015 at 10:08 am

I wonder if this could be related to the fact that LAcitizens have instructed its police not to waste resources on MJ, combined with the existence of legal outlets for that plant which is used for recreational and medicinal purposes everywhere on the globe where there are people.

71 Gene January 9, 2015 at 10:21 am

Maybe it is a simple as one gand “won” for the meantime and is now a monoply? No need to shoot it out right now.

I think that is what happened in Chicago until the “boss” was killed in Mexico(?) last year. Murders spiked after that, I believe. Could be wrong—I welcome correction.

72 Gene January 9, 2015 at 10:21 am


73 Jan January 9, 2015 at 11:29 am

You’ve corrected yourself.

74 Anonymous January 9, 2015 at 7:00 pm

Thank you. Without this comment I would have been confused beyond any repair.

75 Scoop January 9, 2015 at 10:39 am

The trend is real and hugely important. Better technology, better policing techniques and crafty applications of RICO allow us to dramatically reduce crime rates among the underclass. Arguments here against that are silly.

There only real question is whether society will have the will to keep using these tactics as the underclass grows. How long will the minority majority tolerate the desperate impact in police stops and arrests that are the only way to achieve this sort of success? How long will judges uphold the Constitutionality of RICO, assuming that judges will grow more liberal as society does? RICO is really aggressive. I’m no ACLU member and it makes me queasy. If it stops being used to target Russians and Italians and starts being used primarily against minorities, I’m not sure it lasts long.

And then we may be back to square one. (It will be interesting to see what happens in NYC if cops there continue to stop working for any length of time.)

76 The Anti-Gnostic January 9, 2015 at 10:57 am

In other words: diversity, liberty or equality; choose one.

77 Nathan W January 9, 2015 at 4:07 pm

There are tensions between them, but pretending that we have to choose one or the other is a false choice.

I choose all. How will we make the tensions to be constructive?

78 The Anti-Gnostic January 9, 2015 at 4:21 pm

By privatizing the profits, and socializing the costs.

You proles further down the food chain, good luck.

79 Boonton January 9, 2015 at 11:31 am

Crime is down nationwide though. Did all the police departments in the US uniformally adopt better technology and techniques? Did all the police in the US uniformally increase stops and arrests of minorities (even though the majority of crime is still committed by whites so I’m unclear why how a policy of stopping brown and black people somehow causes white criminals to also do less crime).

80 Lord Action January 9, 2015 at 11:59 am

Well, yes, right? Not perfectly uniformly, but Scoop is identifying a clear nationwide trend in LE.

I’m not convinced it’s causal either, but it’s the obvious candidate explanation.

81 Scoop January 9, 2015 at 12:27 pm

1. Crime being down “nationwide” is largely a result of it being dramatically reduced in many major cities. Crime has actually been pretty steady or even up slightly in most of suburbia. At one point in the late 90s — when crime went down the most “nationwide” — nearly a third of the national drop was the drop in NYC alone.

2. Yes, police everywhere are using better technology and nearly all of them are adopting the better techniques that have been developed over the past 20 years. Better still, criminals are voluntarily carrying around GPS units most of the time and (sometimes) bragging about their crimes via technology that records them. There are also a huge number of video cameras in all sorts of places now that provide hard evidence for police and prosecutors. (The other technology that doesn’t get enough credit is medicine. A significant part of the decline in homicides stems from the fact that ERs today can save gunshot victims who would have died 25 years ago.).

3. If by “whites” you mean non-Hispanic whites, they do not commit anything like the majority of most crimes that people care about. Blacks alone commit about half the nation’s homicides (and close to half of many other violent crimes) despite being less than 13% of the population. Hispanics probably commit another 30%, although there’s actually some debate because of discrepancies in how Hispanics classify themselves racially and how various government agencies classify them. (Thanks to classification issues, there’s actually a controversy about whether Hispanics commit serious crimes at a higher rate than non-Hispanic whites, once you adjust for age. Some studies suggest their crime rate is several times as high. Others suggest it’s about the same.)

4. Reducing crime rates by any one group would obviously reduce overall crime rates, even if it did not reduce crime rates by others (duh). That said, if your goal is to minimize crime, then the way to do it is to focus your crime prevention efforts on the people who are most likely to be criminals. This means you will stop more young men than old women (proportionate to their numbers in the community), and everyone accepts that because everyone accepts that men commit more crimes than women and that 20-y-old commit more crimes than 70-y-os. But it also means stopping black people — and probably brown people — at a higher rate than whites and Asians, and many people do not accept that. It also means that if you are color-blind in solving crimes that occur and prosecuting people for them, you are going to send a disproportionate number of black and brown men to jail. Many people are not fine with that, and I’d say there’s a legitimate question about whether it will continue as black and brown people become a larger percentage of the electorate.

82 Brenton January 10, 2015 at 3:25 pm

“nearly a third of the national drop was the drop in NYC alone”

I don’t know where you’re getting this but it’s not even statistically possible. Crime has dramatically reduced across the board, from rural white areas to large cities.

83 Scoop January 10, 2015 at 3:56 pm

Crime drops in other cities tended to follow NYC’s drop. You notice I said “at one point in the late 90s” rather than now. The “national” drop in the 90s was not that steep — 10%? — and the drop in NYC was enormous — large enough to convince people the country as a whole was experiencing a much bigger change than it was. (Alas, the net doesn’t index stories from 15 years ago well, so no link and no numbers more exact than what my memory can provide at this distance.)

Since 2000, the nationwide drop has been sharper, but it has still been driven mostly by cities, and by some measures, crime has gone up in the suburbs: http://www.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323300404578206873179427496?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424127887323300404578206873179427496.html

84 Scoop January 10, 2015 at 4:11 pm

I did some more digging and I’ll correct myself on two points: the decline in violent crime was actually steeper in the 90s than the 00s, steep enough that NYC cannot possibly account for a third of it. It did account for a surprisingly high amount of it. But clearly not that much.

That said, the data do indicate that declines in major cities account for the overwhelming majority of the national decline. Crime is not down “dramatically” in rural areas or in suburbs. Here’s another report to that effect.


85 Clover January 9, 2015 at 12:33 pm

the majority of crime is still committed by whites


86 dead serious January 9, 2015 at 12:52 pm

You’re likely conveniently overlooking white collar crime because rich folk can do no wrong in the Republican playbook, so yes.

87 Art Deco January 10, 2015 at 5:31 am

No, I’m overlooking ‘white collar crime’ because I’m not holed up in my apartment because I’m anxious about someone in New York selling shizzy collateralized debt obligations. I’m anxious about muggers. I avoid being a ‘victim’ of the CDO peddlers by not buying collateralized debt obligations.

88 dead serious January 10, 2015 at 3:04 pm

You avoid no such thing if the dude in control of the public pension fund was bamboozled by some bankster and your state taxes go through the roof to compensate for the fund’s massive losses. For example.

But you keep cowering in fear in your apartment of hoodlums with AK-47s, you giant wuss.

89 JWatts January 9, 2015 at 6:58 pm

“According to the legal systems of the United States, Hispanic and/or Latin American persons are generally classified as white.”

So, by that classification Whites (& Hispanics) are the majority of arrested offenders.

90 Al January 9, 2015 at 1:08 pm

The crime statistics picture in LA has become murky lately. It appears that the LAPD has not been accurately categorizing violent crimes in recent years. It’s possible that violent crime has been going up lately. It’s also possible that violent crime never really reached the low levels which were reported in earlier years.

Last month the LAPD itself stated that aggravated assaults went up about 24 percent in LA over the past year .

From the article:

“All four types of crime that account for the city’s violence total had increased: Robberies and homicides were up slightly; rapes climbed 12.4%.”

“By far, the most dramatic rise was in aggravated assaults — serious attacks that typically involve a weapon or serious injury — which rose 24.2% compared with 2013.”

“The increase in assaults coincided with a Times investigation this summer that found that the LAPD significantly understated the city’s true level of crime when it misclassified nearly 1,200 serious violent crimes as low-level offenses during a recent one-year period. The bulk of those errors were made when police recorded aggravated assaults as minor incidents.”

“Determining how much of the crime increase was due to improvements in record-keeping is difficult, experts said. To do so, reporting errors made in previous years would need to be corrected to ensure that comparisons were accurate.”

91 Art Deco January 10, 2015 at 5:32 am

The crime statistics picture in LA has become murky lately.

Or reporters do not understand statistical collection methods. Been known to happen.

92 Art Deco January 10, 2015 at 5:29 am

Arguments here against that are silly.

The self-image of sociologists, social workers, and mental health tradesman is at stake. Not silly to them.

93 drycreekboy January 9, 2015 at 10:47 am

Is this the success of any policy or just gangs endogenously changing how they behave because over time trade is becoming more beneficial that conflict (which would suggest that the gangs have created semi-autonomous regions in the communities mentioned)? In other words, have they reached a new equilibrium?

94 collin January 9, 2015 at 11:12 am

As long time resident and huge NWA fan (I liked them more than Nirvana back in the day), here are my reasons:

1) The huge economic growth and housing prices in the 1992 – 2005. The city is less ‘segregrated’ than the 1980s while higher housing prices made the locals want to pursue gang crime more. (Notice the prison population in Cali is very high.) There is a little bit of infamous Simpsons “Our Prices Discriminate, So We Don’t Have To”
2) I am still believe in the logic of Levin’s abortion theory in the fall in crime. But his theory should have included birth control (Not only the usage but with Abortion conservatives tend to support birth control a lot more as abortion rate have fallen the last thirty years.) has controlled the number of young people having unplanned births.
3) I think with the Rodney King riots, backlash of Prop 187 and the popularity of ganster rap, I think the California minority population had a better chance to heard and participate in California economy and politics. Assimilation is a nasty process but long term has been successful in California. (Paging Steve Sailer response.)
4) I will give Kevin Drum his props on lead. There are very few well argued reasons for the huge drop in crime, but his arguments are made very well.

95 Alan January 9, 2015 at 11:36 am

I don’t like people with a swarthy complexion.
Study shows people with swarthy complexion causing less trouble.
Therefore, study wrong.

96 Mike Sankowski January 9, 2015 at 11:58 am

Probably due to decreasing blood lead levels by age cohort. Crime by younger people is plummeting, and gang violence is young people violence.

When you look at age cohorts, the plunge in gang crime is not much larger than how much crime rates have fallen for different age groups over the last few years.

The answer is lead. Remember how long people fought unleaded gasoline? The payoff has already been gigantic, and going forward will add massive amounts to GDP.

I have a strong suspicion some of the “stagnation” Tyler talks about is due to 30-50 year olds being dumber than they should have been over the last 20 years, due to lead.

97 TMC January 9, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Not convinced on the lead thing. Have school results gotten better, here is where you’d first see results. Maybe I’m just getting older, but kids seem dumber today.

98 Jeff R. January 9, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Right. If the lead thing were true, you would expect to see the gap in test scores narrow between children in older, run-down neighborhoods vs. children growing up in more posh, newer neighborhoods, but I believe the effect is actually the opposite. Test scores for kids from higher income families are going up, for middle and lower income kids, they’re flat.

99 Mike Sankowski January 9, 2015 at 2:59 pm

I think you two had too much lead exposure. 😉

Nah, it’s lead. You should look at Rick Nevin’s site. http://www.ricknevin.com/

Specifically, look at this paper: http://www.ricknevin.com/uploads/Prisoners_in_2013_-_The_News_Media_Buries_the_Lead.pdf

In it he shows crime rates are falling for age groups like 18-19 year olds extremely fast, while crime rates for older people – like me – are still going up.

Crime by young people is falling everywhere in the U.S. very quickly, due to less lead.

It’s lead first and foremost, with other minor factors thrown in. CA banned in 1991 according to Andrew above. That’s 17 years from 2008.

100 TMC January 10, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Crime can have many thing associated with it. Lead is supposed to affect IQ. School grade achievement has been stagnant over the last 45 years
(Well current 9 yro have a bump, 13 yro are flat and 17 yro are declinging.

This is on top of a doubling in spending on education.


101 TMC January 10, 2015 at 6:02 pm


102 The Anti-Gnostic January 9, 2015 at 12:42 pm

I wouldn’t discount the easy availability of porn and video games.

103 dead serious January 9, 2015 at 12:53 pm

No one cares what you do with your free time.

104 prior_approval January 9, 2015 at 1:55 pm

‘The answer is lead.’

Look harder – the EU didn’t even ban lead in gasoline until 2000. And yet, EU statistics for violent crime are noticeabvly less than those for the U.S.

105 Brenton January 10, 2015 at 3:28 pm

If you break things down by race, you’ll find that whites in Europe are generally a lot more criminal than in the USA.

106 Brenton January 10, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Besides, I can’t take you seriously if you think one stupid “aha!” argument is a complete refutation of the lead theory.

107 Nathan W January 9, 2015 at 4:17 pm

Those sorts of things are quite difficult to prove. Statistically, this is quite difficult to separate from the assertion that “the explanation is that it is post (arbitrary date)”.

108 Art Deco January 10, 2015 at 5:38 am

Yes, it would require ecological studies and imaginative regression analyses.

109 Nathan W January 12, 2015 at 11:57 am

I think you would need brain tissue samples, MRIs over many decades, and that across many jurisdictions which banned leaded gasoline at different times, but treating each time as date zero.

I.e., it’s unprovable. You could alternatively try to get data on lead in water, atmosphere, food, etc. before and after, and demonstrate that this resulted in lead in tissue in humans, and then cross this with known relationships between lead in tissue and the results you point to. Again, I don’t think you’re going to get the data.

It’s not such a stretch to think you’re right. But it’s a stretch to think that it’s useful to suppose that it’s anything more than plausible. Your same theory would imply that Romans must have been very criminal, as they used lead dishes, pipes, etc. But they were pretty Roman, no? Not so criminal?

110 Art Deco January 10, 2015 at 5:35 am

Probably due to decreasing blood lead levels by age cohort. Crime by younger people is plummeting,

Probably? Did it occur to you how many academic disciplines you would have to consult and the intricacy of the ecological studies necessary to demonstrate this thesis?

111 Art Deco January 10, 2015 at 5:37 am

Remember how long people fought unleaded gasoline?

No, I do not, because there was never much public controversy on the issue. The unleaded gasoline was introduced in 1971 or thereabouts. You could buy leaded and unleaded for many years.

112 Nathan W January 12, 2015 at 11:58 am

I don’t think anyone disagrees that it’s healthier. But connecting it to crime rates?

113 Al January 9, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Thanks for the pointer to this interesting article.

One of the points Mr. Quinones makes is that court ordered, anti-gang injunctions have been an important tool in taking violent offenders off the streets in many gang-affected neighborhoods.

Even liberal LA city attorney Mike Feuer obtained a new gang injunction in the Echo Park neighborhood in 2013 despite protests from civil libertarians and (some of the young people in these neighborhoods) who criticize gang injunctions for causing “loss of school, employment and financial aid opportunities; eviction from housing; deportation and imprudent incarceration efforts.”

As Quinones also points out, another important tool in the struggle against gangs has been increasing the use of computer databases (COMPSTAT) for tracking people and crimes by the LAPD. Again, putting additional information about people into government computers is not something most civil libertarians tend to favor.

So, if Los Angeles has in fact “fixed” its gang problem (a debatable conclusion), it has done so, at least in part, through the increased use legal and technological tools which civil libertarians tend to object to.

114 Al January 9, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Another interesting thing in the article is the notion that the redevelopment of real estate in a free market way, in the absence of “a plan” (i.e. restrictions and regulations), was an important cause of the gang problem:

‘Bill Murphy’s first assignment was to the department’s Harbor Division, 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. There, too, gangs were on the rise, and density was adding to the problem. In one neighborhood, some 70 single-family houses were replaced with 477 apartment units that attracted mostly low-income renters. “There was no plan,” he says. “They were putting apartments in left and right.” ‘

Both Quinones and Police Officer Bill Murphy seem to be saying that what was needed was more property development restrictions (presumably imposed by government). This is not something I would expect a libertarian to support.

115 The Anti-Gnostic January 9, 2015 at 4:43 pm

It definitely violates the Yglesian thesis that high-density development will result in journalists being able to live in the same safe, upscale manner as their lawyer friends.

116 Keith January 9, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Yes, crime is dropping, but it is crazy to pretend that we have it licked. We have no idea why it is dropping. Why base policy on something we don’t understand?

117 Al January 9, 2015 at 1:38 pm

“it is crazy to pretend that we have it licked”

It does seem crazy. But, as Bill Clinton might have said, it depends on what the definition of “licked” is. (And he ought to know).

By a really strict definition of the word, if the answer to Tyler’s headline (“Has Los Angeles Fixed Its Gang Problem”) truly is “yes”, then it would be wise for LA to stop spending money on the prevention of a problem which doesn’t exist anymore and instead spend that money on other, truly real problems. And, again, using that same strict definition, it would also be wise for LA to eliminate all the gang injunctions because they take away freedom without providing any benefit.

But, maybe that’s not the sense of “fixed” Tyler is using. It seems like he means “fixed” more in the sense of “found a way to keep a lid on it.”

118 Art Deco January 10, 2015 at 5:43 am

We have no idea why it is dropping.

In New York since 1980, the census of the police force in the five boroughs has doubled, the census of the prison population has increased 2.5 fold, and the police force in the five boroughs adopted different tactics while the police force in Rochester did not. You can see the evolution of crime statistics since then has been commonsensical. We have an idea. It’s just that that idea is deeply offensive to people invested in their own methods of behavior modification, their own theses about what makes society tick, and their own pattern of affections and aversions. People who despise cops are loath to admit they can accomplish much of anything.

119 Brenton January 10, 2015 at 3:33 pm

And New York was one of the first and most aggressive actors against lead exposure. The relatively early and large drop in crime that then occurred is expected given the lead theory. Not that more cops didn’t hurt, but you’re talking about a city that contains just a tiny fraction of the US population, when this trend occurred almost everywhere. Its occurred the least in urban neighborhoods that have the highest rates of lead exposure… run down housing in bad parts of Baltimore, Philly, Chicago, Detroit, etc that have a lot of lead paint dust.

120 Al January 9, 2015 at 3:35 pm

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