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January 13, 2010



Brent, I hope you have sent a link to your post not only to the Pitch, but to the Star, City Hall, and the TV and Radio stations. I was very disappointed that the Pitch dropped the ball so completely for this article. They have a platform where they could have done so much, alas.


There is one thing that I don't understand...it is not the location or the building that is bad..but the people that commit the crime. Would those same people be less likely to commit the crime if they were in a different location or would the crime just be spread to different areas? I don't believe that is good either. I don't think it is an area that people should just throw up their hands and say, "Bad area, let them all kill themselves" or anything like that. I am sure that there are good people that live there. But does breaking up the people reduce overall crime or just localized crime?


ie -- good questions.

For starters, obviously centralizing crime is very bad for the people where it is centralized around. I think everyone deserves the opportunity to live in at least a relatively crime-free neighborhood.

Secondly, it is reasonable to assume that many of the people committing the crimes would do so in other locations -- however, when there is mixed use housing, it is much easier get rid of the trouble-makers quickly. Last summer, we had a drug house at the end of our street. Within a couple of months, they were arrested and gone. The problem was easy to isolate, and prosecute. SO the problem was solved. When the problem is so consolidated, it takes longer to isolate and get rid of. Because of the longer time it takes, people are less willing to step forward for fear of retaliation.

Meanwhile, the 3rd part, and I think this is most important, is the sense of helplessness it creates for good people who live in low-income housing. It is heartbreaking to see moms with kids living in these buildings and for the children to see the drug dealing and gun-fire as a part of "normal" life. When such activity becomes "normal", it then perpetuates itself as the kids become teenagers -- vs if the kids were growing up in a mixed-use area and had a different view of what "normal" was.

This is the biggest reason why the experts in low-income housing are so against project-based housing -- because instead of helping solve the problem of poor, low-income people - it perpetuates it.


It's disgusting that city hall turns its back on this. Jan Marcason and Beth Gottstein ought to be ashamed of themselves for not being outspoken. How difficult is it to push for a detailed housing plan? They'll be out next election cycle.


Brent -

Very well done write up -- obviously a labor of love for you. I hope the pitch takes notice.

You probably know this - and left it out for the sake of brevity, but white flight took roots just before the timeframe you highlighted -- although there's no doubt it was accelerated in the timeframe, and by the drivers you cite. White flight effectively began when there was a gradual realization that public school desegregation was here to stay; and the ramifications of it.

Incidentally, my wife and I looked at several homes in hyde park a few months ago; even going so far as to put an offer in on one. It really is a beautiful neighborhood, both aesthetically, and in that it functions as an *actual* neighborhood, a notable contrast with outer-belt suburbia.

Joe Medley

I've read that dispersing low-income housing doesn't just disperse the crime. It actually gives you a lower over all crime rate. If I could get my hands on the data I would post it.

Now I'm going to speculate. Part of the reason for that, I suspect, is exactly what Brent said. Crime is easier to isolate in mixed neighborhoods.

(Please read ALL of what I'm about to say before reacting.)

I've also wondered for a long time if property owners put up more of a fight against crime. I'm NOT saying property owners are in any sense more moral than renters. As a practical matter, property owners are harder to dislodge. A renter can leave nearly on a moment's notice (even if it is just to another section 8 location). For a property owner leaving is considerably more complicated.

This would tend to drive criminal activity toward areas with high numbers of renters. Since there seems to also be a correlation between poverty and crime, this would also mean that project-based section 8 housing would be worse than a run of the mill apartment building.

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