Chicago School Sociology is Alive and Well at the LA Times

 

As every criminology student learns, the “Chicago School” brought us a tradition of research on a variety of topics guided largely by a methodology that looks at patterns of crime as they are related to social ecology.  More specifically, this approach looks at how different types of crimes are distributed throughout urban areas. 

 

One of the most recent examples comes from a continuing series published by the Los Angeles Times on homicide.  The latest in this series focuses on two different neighborhoods in the South Central part of Los Angeles. 

 

In one neighborhood, measuring about one square mile, there have been no homicides within the past three years.  The Times reports that: “Over the last decade, an effort by the city and private investors has jump-started a rehabilitation of the commercial corridor along Vermont Avenue. The predominance of single-family homes instead of apartments means a less densely packed population and less turnover. And many in the neighborhood own their homes and have had roots in the area for generations.”

 

Within the second neighborhood – just a few blocks away – a different story emerges. Within this area there have been 28 homicides in the past three years.  Not surprisingly, the Times notes, we have: “Densely packed, dreary apartment buildings catering to renters with Section 8 government subsidy vouchers are squeezed next to rundown houses that often have additional apartments added on. Real estate signs in front of boarded-up homes advertise foreclosure sales by banks. Street corners are dotted with liquor stores, coin-op laundries or small churches. The area, in many ways, is a cliché of urban blight.”  There are an estimated 15 different gangs competing for territory within this small area.  No outside investments have arrived.

 

This is merely a small sample of the data this newspaper has collected over the past three years or so.  By clicking on the homicide map the reader can see patterns of homicide cases matched by race/ethnicity, neighborhood (with detailed maps of each neighborhood), gender, the kinds of weapons used, the circumstances of the case (e.g., domestic violence, drive-by, etc. – unfortunately in most of the cases the circumstances are marked “unspecified”), among others.

 

As for neighborhoods, by clicking on one neighborhood you can learn a lot, such as exactly where the homicides took place and a profile of the victims.  For example, the area with the highest number of homicides during this 3-year period is Compton, with 115 killings.  Clicking on one case, that of an 18-year-old black male named Dannie Farber, we learn that he and his girl friend were eating at a local restaurant and a man (wearing a hood and black cap) walked in and said "Where you from?"  Dannie stood up and said "What are you talking about?"  The man then shot him several times and walked out the door.  This was on May 24, 2009.  Police are still looking for the suspect.  Dannie was not in a gang, was an All-City wide receiver from Harbor City's Narbonne High School and was to graduate from high school on June 19.

 

This is merely one example among a total of about 2,000 cases the Times has in its data base.  Students, faculty, researchers and policy makers would benefit from checking out this web site.