People should read John Buntin’s piece on how the LAPD is stopping gang violence and reducing violent crime without resorting to the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk insanity.
When we talk about crime, we tend to talk about victims and offenders, innocence and guilt, prey and predator. Gang violence clouds and warps this logic: victims and victimizers are often the same people, and neither side has any reason to talk to the police. This presents a conundrum to law enforcement, one that has developed contrasting strategies on either coast. New York City insists that hard-nosed, divisive tactics like its stop-and-frisk policy are necessary to reduce crime. But Los Angeles has pursued another way, an approach that has delivered lower crime rates and fostered police-community reconciliation.
Many police officers were skeptical, perhaps because so many gang-intervention workers were themselves ex-gang members. Some hadn’t really left the gangs. But during his time at Harbor division, [Capt. Pat] Gannon saw firsthand how gang interventionists could shut gang feuds down. With nothing to lose, he made some phone calls and asked for help. A week later, he found himself sitting down to talk with “30 hard-core gang guys” in a church basement in South L.A.
The first meeting was a grievance session. The second meeting, the same. At the third, Gannon finally spoke up. “We’ve had eight homicides in two weeks, four on the L.A. side, four in the city of Inglewood,” he said. “I just had a double murder the day before yesterday. I need help in stopping that. I have to stop that feud. Can you help me with this particular problem?”
Discussion ensued. The gang-intervention workers said there were people with whom they might talk. “That day it stopped,” Gannon says. “Not slowed down; it stopped.”
This year I am working at MIT where a disproportionate number of the students are Asian-Americans. It would be no more wise for me to take from that experience that individual Asian-Americans are good at math, then it would be for anyone to look at the NBA and assume I am good at basketball. And we would agree with this because generally hold that people deserve to be seen as individuals. But by Cohen’s logic, the fact of being an African-American is an exception to this.
A complete picture begins to emerge.
Stop demonizing people and talk to them. Treat people as individuals worthy of respect. Enlist people in solving the problem, even if they might seem to be part of the problem.
Now, turn this around and think about it for how we should approach the pro-Zimmerman, pro-profiling mentality.