Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Growing up “on the wrong side of the tracks” in Cincinnati, I experienced some of the racial crimes committed – blacks on whites; whites on blacks. But what was most concerning were the heinous acts of violence that involved black perpetrators on black victims, especially involving black men.

The murder of young black men is not an uncommon occurrence. During the first two weeks of this year, fourteen people were murdered in Baltimore, Maryland, an average of one murder a day in a city of just over 600,000 people. By the end of the month, the count had reached 27. Last year, there were 234 murders in Baltimore, and the overwhelming majority of the victims were African American.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between eight and nine thousand African Americans are murdered each year. Of course crimes where a black is murdered by a non-black—as in the slayings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis—receive the most media attention. But in fact, more than 90% of black murder victims are killed by other blacks. Unsurprisingly, most killings are related to drugs or gang activity.

There are two prevailing theories about what causes these kinds of violent crime. The first, typically favored by those on the left, posits that crime (particularly violent crime) is primarily caused by poverty. Deal with poverty, they tell us, and crime will go away on its own. At first glance, this seems have some merit. Lower income neighborhoods are typically more dangerous than wealthy ones. Chicago recorded 506 homicides in 2012 while Detroit had 411 the same year, almost all of them in low income minority neighborhoods.

NBA Star Derrick Rose, point guard for the Chicago Bulls, voiced his opinion about the violence in his city. "It all starts out from poverty," Rose told CNN. "People are just surviving. People are just really trying to get out.” Rose would know. The youngest of four boys, he was raised by a single mother on Chicago’s notorious South Side.

The second theory is commonly called the “Broken Windows Theory,” first introduced in a 1982 article by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. This theory holds that all people have the capacity to commit crime, but they are far more likely to do so when they believe they can get away with it. Neighborhoods with litter, abandoned buildings and the broken windows (from which the theory gets its name) convey the message that no one is in charge, and it is this sense of lawlessness that breeds crime.

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.