An online project of The Times called the Homicide Report has tracked Los Angeles County homicides, as they have happened, since the beginning of the year. The project has yielded a vivid statistical outline of the county's current homicide problem -- at least 520 killings by early August. It also has chronicled some of the damage that rippled through families and communities rent by deaths that happened before their time.Be sure to read the story, and check out the chronicles of the victims at the homicide report blog.
Homicide is not fair, hitting hardest among Latinos and especially among blacks. Latinos are killed at more than three times the rate of whites, while blacks succumb to homicide at three times the rate of Latinos, the Times analysis shows.
Adult males are the eye of the storm. The national homicide rate is about six deaths per 100,000 people each year. But for Latino men in their 20s in Los Angeles County, the rate is 52 deaths, and for black men, 176 deaths. In human terms, that means that losing a son to homicide, a remote possibility in some neighborhoods, looms as a daily threat in others.
In South Los Angeles and Athens this year, for example, there have been at least 20 homicides within a single ZIP Code in just seven months. A few miles away, in the Woodland Hills, Tarzana and Brentwood ZIP Codes, months go by without any.
People living close to frequent violent death find refuge in denial. On the same streets where sidewalks are stained by the melted wax from homicide shrines and young men loiter in wheelchairs, people talk about being "caught slippin' " (letting one's guard down) or about friends having "passed" (not having been killed). Bereaved parents describe years of obsessively protective behavior -- children locked indoors, hourly cellphone calls to check in. Then, in the next breath, they avow that they never thought their child could be murdered.
I recently posted on the tragedy of America's urban crisis.
I am deeply troubled by these statistics. Urban violence is a national crisis, and the 2008 presidential hopefuls need to address this issue more forcefully. Remedies to the crisis are not to be found solely in the realm of law enforcement, but must also come from changes at the family level.