How to Stop Murders? Start Solving Them.


Flickr user Rocco339

In 2006, Los Angeles Times reporter Jill Leovy launched a blog that attempted to cover every murder in Los Angeles. It was no small task—there were about 1000 in the first two years of the project. Since then, "The Homicide Report" has evolved into an interactive map and database that covers every death ruled a homicide by the coronor’s office.

Many of these deaths are what Leovy calls “ghettocide,” another name for black-on-black crime. It’s a topic she tackles head-on in her new book, Ghettocide: A True Story of Murder in America. It’s a powerful, moving, and disturbing work of literary journalism that gives the reader a broader view of homicide in America, especially the country’s plague of racial violence.

When she talked to Anne Strainchamps recently, Leovy discussed what needs to change to address the epidemic of black-on-black homicide. She claims that while the national dialogue has focused on policing, the real problem is about solving crimes. She says, "The public mindset that that the police should be predicting or preventing crime is actually more of the culprit here than some of the very counterproductive attitudes that you sometimes see within police departments.”

An additional problem, according to Leovy, is the use of crime data to target certain neighborhoods with certain kinds of policing. She says, “It was this really unexamined idea that it’s a great thing to police with data and to target neighborhoods and saturate them with uniformed officers without really asking well, what are those uniformed officers doing when they go to the neighborhood to saturate it, to respond to crime, to respond to data?”

Leovy says that these kinds of tactics are not the city or the state’s “first job.” That, she says, is catching killers. In some of the wealthier countries of Western Europe, she says, they have solve rates as high as 89 to 90 percent, while in the United States about 50 percent of all murders go unsolved. When combined with what Leovy calls “hypersegregation,” it makes it hard for police or communities to create “lawful environments.”

According to hear research, from the late 1980s until 2005 there were 40 unsolved homicides per square mile in South Los Angeles. She says, “When those are the facts on the ground—when that’s the environment—you cannot build an effective legal structure. You cannot let those things go.”

Listen to the full interview with Leovy below.

Covering "Ghettosides" in South L.A.

In 2006, journalist Jill Leovy started a blog called "The Homicide Report." Her goal was to document every murder committed in L.A. County -- all 1,000 of them.  She spent two years embedded with homicide detectives, talking with victim's families, witnesses and suspects.  Now Leovy talks about her book, "Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America."

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