Crime, Blind Stupidity, and Hypocrisy
So the other day I was talking transit with a co worker. This person and I were having a rather intelligent conversation on the need and importance of mass transit, which he was all for. But then we got to the topic of crime, and he began to speak with some hesitation, expressing his concern for the spread of crime via transit. I bit my tongue to not ruin a relationship with a contractor with whom I needed at the time, but I couldn’t help but question how he came to this assumption.
Studies have been done concerning transit and crime, but most only settle on crime within the actual system. Most attempts to study the spread of crime via transit have not worked due to the evidence being inconclusive or the increase or decrease in crime can be attributed to another variable. Think Buckhead in the late 90’s. Crime was going up, some could have pointed to transit, but it turned out that when most of the bars were shut down, crime began to dwindle considerably. I think a good case can be made despite the lack of research, and through simple observations. Jane Jacobs style.
Before considering this idea, and if you do believe that transit spreads crime, I ask you to just stop for a second and think. Let’s assume that you are in the “market” for a new 55” flat screen television. Your chosen means to acquire this television is through theft. And being that you are an environmentally conscious burglar (or just low on fuel funds) you choose to hop on the Red Line and make your way to Buckhead. You get off the train, trek your way to Best Buy, or maybe a home on Paces Ferry Road, steal a television, and trek back to the station, wait for the train (because you are not a burglar with a sense of urgency), ride the train back, all the while nervously clutching a 55” Sony hoping no one is suspicious of you, and finally get off the train and walk home. Done! Pretty easy I imagine; if you were a part of the original Ocean’s 11 team. And definitely way easier then getting your friend (if you don’t have a car) to just drive you somewhere and throw it in their trunk.
The part that irks me most though is that the blame gets put on transit. And it’s not even founded blame, its blame contrived from poor and inaccurate perceptions. Let’s say you did rob a bank and fled via train. People will come out of the woodwork saying how transit enabled this behavior. But a few months ago when a man robbed a bank in North Springs, fled via car at speeds in excess of 90mph on GA 400, then jumped on surface roads, led the police on a chase next to my apartment building and got himself shot dead, no one said “hey, that highway attracted a criminal.” It was the proximity of the highway that allowed this person to get to where he got and commit the crime. It was the highway that allowed him to flee at excessive speeds and not only endanger the pursuing law enforcement, but also other motorists.
Historically speaking, it is the highway that has actually created blighted, crime ridden areas. It wasn’t transit. Examples include the Cross Bronx Expressway taking what was once a traditionally working class area, and plummeting the neighborhood in poverty and crime via lowered real estate values and decreased access to other boroughs. The area is now one of the 5 poorest congressional districts in the country, allowing that crime to further spread to North Bronx, reducing the desirability of that area. This is not a result of the subway line; that is the impact of the car. The I-277 loop in Charlotte as well as Independence Boulevard. I-277 isolating one of the first garden and streetcar suburbs of the city, allowing for the spread of prostitution and drugs which has only picked itself back up within the last fifteen years. Independence Boulevard, which allowed for the demolition of what was once the most populated and diverse communities in Charlotte, forced residents from homes and businesses, creating financial turmoil, and eventually the spread of crime to the North, East, and West. The 2nd Ward population today: a robust 789, all residents of the fine residential community of the Mecklenburg County Correctional Institution.
The list goes on and on. Cities like Nashville, Cleveland, New Orleans, Miami, Louisville, Tampa, and Atlanta are all on a very long list of places that constructed highway and road projects that demolished neighborhoods and proliferated the spread of crime, often creating isolated areas that were perfect dark alleys for drug trafficking, murders, rapes, and homelessness while destroying property values and safety in subsequent neighborhoods.
The end result is that there is no actual proof that transportation spreads crime, but there is a wealth of information regarding roads, and their destruction of communities and the spread of crime. Bonnie & Clyde didn’t write letters thanking Norfolk Southern for their getaways, those were to Henry Ford. So unless you are willing to address roads, cars, bicycles, and all other modes of transportation with the same hostility and expectance for accountability regarding their role in crime and the spread of it, you are one hell of a hypocrit, and it is best that you find another reason to lobby against mass transit.
And hurry up, I need another blog idea.