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Interesting Article on Los Angeles Gangs

Peter Landesman has written a fascinating article for L.A. Weekly on street gangs. The events he details are chilling.

I can’t say I agree with some of the broader claims of the piece, however.

Landesman argues that the gang problem is worse than it has ever been, and that gang violence hasn’t dropped the way other crimes have. A quick glance at the homicide rates among young black males over the last 15 years shows that this statement just can’t be accurate. The biggest declines in homicide have been among young black males, both in absolute and percentage terms.

Also, in the gangs that Sudhir Venkatesh studies, violence is sometimes random, but more often is used for some clear purpose: punishing misbehavior, establishing property rights, or trying to prove that the perpetrator is leadership material. My reading of the Landesman article was that most of the violence was completely senseless — done without real thought or purpose, just because it was fun, almost. That was the exact argument put forth about the Superpredator generation in the early 1990s — just before crime in that generation plunged like it never had before. I see no more reason to believe the current generation of young people is any worse than the last.

(Hat tip: Tim Groseclose)