Memorial to the Lost

Memorial to the Lost
at Chester Eastside Ministries

Saturday, February 21, 2015

I estimate that the risk of a Chester boy being shot to death by age 29 is about 1 in 12

I work as an actuary -- we compute death rates and survival probabilities.

Last year, there were 30 homicides in Chester.  They're overwhelmingly shootings from (illegal) guns; they happen overwhelmingly to young African American men.  Let's say that proportion is 80%, so 24.

There are 16,073 boys and men in Chester.  About 29% of them are aged 15-29:  4,589.

24 / 4,589 = 0.52%, about one in 200 each year.

The probability of surviving one year, then, is about  (1 - 0.52%) = 99.48%, and the probability of surviving 15 years at that rate is .9948 ^ 15 = 92.4%.  Which is to say about 8% of 15 year-olds would be killed before age 30 if homicides stayed at that rate for 15 years.

One out of 12.

Jill Leovy's new book, Ghettoside, talks about the toll of grief on the families of victims -- the empty eyes, the sleeplessness, the fear of going outside.  Younger boys look around them, and don't really expect to grow up.

Why aren't we doing something?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

In the New York Times Book Review Section: Ghettoside

In her timely new book, Jill Leovy examines one of the most disturbing facts about life in America: that African-American males are, as she puts it, “just 6 percent of the country’s population but nearly 40 percent of those murdered.” Leovy describes neighborhoods steeped in pain: A mother, dressed in a baggy T‑shirt adorned with her murdered son’s picture, spends all day indoors, too terrified to step outside; the brother of a homicide victim purposely meanders through violent streets in the hopes that he too will meet the same fate; grieving parents all wear the same haunted expression, the empty stare that one police chaplain calls “homicide eyes.” Leovy’s focus is South Los Angeles, though similar stories abound in many of the nation’s poorest communities.

This is a world that most journalists never cover, and most of America never sees. Leovy, a reporter for The Los Angeles Times, argues that as a nation we have grown far too accepting of our high rate of homicide — all the yellow crime-scene tape and sidewalk candle memorials — in large part because the media has paid too little attention. In response, she started a blog at her newspaper in late 2006 called The Homicide Report, in which she attempted to cover every murder in Los Angeles County in a single year. It was a radical idea — at the time, her paper reported on only about 10 percent of homicides — and also a near-impossible task: In a 2008 article, Leovy acknowledged that the report “has merely skimmed a problem whose true depths couldn’t be conveyed.”

In “Ghettoside,” she tackles this “plague of murders,” as she calls it, with a book-length narrative that enables her to write about it with all the context and complexity it deserves. Her protagonist is John Skaggs, a Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective, whom she portrays as both compassionate and relentless: He gives his personal cellphone number to the mothers of men who’ve been murdered, and he treats every homicide case “like the hottest celebrity crime in town,” Leovy writes, no matter how poor and unknown the victim was. Despite his white skin, Skaggs manages to win the trust of the community.

The narrative arc of “Ghettoside” traces one of Skaggs’s homicide cases: the murder of Bryant Tennelle. (The book’s title comes from a Watts gang member’s shorthand for his neighborhood and others like it — a term local detectives adopt.) One evening in 2007, Bryant walks outside with a friend not far from his home, carrying a root beer and pushing his bicycle, when a stranger jumps out of a car, shoots him and escapes. Like so many murder victims, Bryant is young (just 18 years old) and nonwhite. But as it happens, he is also the son of Wallace Tennelle, a highly respected African-American detective with the Los Angeles police. Tennelle is the first detective to arrive at the crime scene, only to find his son splayed on the grass, his brain matter everywhere.

Reading this scene and the ones that follow — when Tennelle has to reveal to his wife what just happened, when all the family members converge at the hospital — I actually felt physically sick. I can’t ever remember having that reaction to a book before, but in this case it may not be all that surprising. One-third of the way into Leovy’s book, it’s apparent that the true scope of our nation’s homicide problem — the extraordinary pain and trauma and despair that follow the murder of a loved one — is indeed sickening.  

to read more, click here

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Stop Straw Sales and Save Our Children: Come, stand with us in vigil against gun trafficking

Saturday, March 21st, 1:30 - 3 PM at 1627 Chichester Ave, Linwood (aka Lower Chichester)
Thursday, March 26th, 5:30-6:30 PM at Miller's Gun Store - 1576B Chichester Ave, Linwood (see map below)
Come stand with the Chester/Delco Chapter of Heeding God's Call, a faith-based movement to prevent gun violence, to persuade Mr. Miller to adopt a Code of Conduct to prevent straw sales.

What are straw sales?

Let's say Mr. A wants to sell guns on the street to people who can't pass a background check, because they're under 21, or because they have a felony conviction or a mental health problem.  He may hire Ms. B, who has a clean record, to buy guns for him, using her ID and his money.  She goes into the store and buys guns for him, he pays her, and puts the guns in his car trunk, and he has guns to sell that cannot be traced to him.

This is how illegal guns reach the street, and most guns used in crimes were bought illegally.

If all gun stores adhered to a Code of Conduct like Walmart's, far fewer illegal guns would reach the streets.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Camden and Chester, the US's most dangerous cities

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Turns out the most dangerous cities in the country aren’t as far away as Detroit or Memphis but are right here near Philadelphia.
The keyword is “near” — Philadelphia didn’t even crack the top 50.
NeighborhoodScout, an online research group, ranked the 100 most dangerous cities in the country with 25,000 people or more, and Camden, NJ came in first. Chester, Pa. ranked second.
“NeighborhoodScout’s report shows that in the past year Camden has seen 1,895 violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault). While these numbers are much less than Philadelphia’s next door (17,088 violent crimes), factoring in population size is what pushes Camden to the top of the list,” NeighborhoodScout writes. “Camden soars over the national average of 3.8 violent crimes per 1,000 people with 25.66 (more than six times the national average).”
Additionally, NeighborhoodScout says the landscape of areas with high rates of violent crime is changing. While most people picture high rise public housing buildings when they think of dangerous areas, it seems the most dangerous places are full of single family homes, with many of those abandoned. And many cities on the list aren’t big cities, but low-income inner-ring suburban neighborhoods or “decaying cities.”
To read more, click here.