See no evil: Racial violence underreported
DOJ: Victims don't tell police about half of violent crimes
And if they do, police often do not file crime reports, say local newspapers around the country.
“More than half of the nation’s violent crimes, or nearly 3.4 million violent victimizations per year, went unreported to the police between 2006 and 2010,” said a Justice Department analysis.
That’s 17 million violent crimes off the books in five years.
Some say it is even worse. They point to the experience that cities around America are having with ShotSpotter: An anti-crime technology that features an array of wireless microphones that can pinpoint the location of a gun shot to within 40 feet.
The system is 96 percent accurate.
Using ShotSpotter, the New York Times reports that neighbors called police only 10 percent of the time guns were fired in a high-crime area of San Francisco. In Oakland, 22 percent of gunshots prompted 9-1-1 calls.
Chief Chris Magnus of Richmond, Calif., a community of 120,000 north of Berkeley that routinely ranks among country’s most violent cities, recalled listening to a ShotSpotter recording of a gun battle in 2010 that involved more than 100 rounds fired from four guns.
“It was just mind-boggling,” he said. “This is like 11 at night on a summer night, and nobody even called it in.”
And often when people “call it in,” the police do not file a report, further skewing the statistics in places like Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Milwaukee.
In Queens, a New York Times headline reports, “A new police tactic: Keeping crime off the books.”
New York police refused to take a report when a man groped Jill Korber several days in a row.
“He told me it would be a waste of time, because I didn’t know who the guy was or where he worked or anything,” said Ms. Korber, 34, a schoolteacher. “His words to me were, ‘These things happen.’ He said those words.”
Katherine Davis told the Times she hid in a closet when a man entered her apartment, searched the room and left.
After the police arrived and questioned Davis, she asked for a case number so she could follow the investigation. “There is no case number,” they told her.
In Milwaukee, 50 black people looted a convenience store in 2011. Then they moved to a nearby park where they assaulted 10 people having a Fourth of July picnic.
The following day, several of the victims went to the police station to learn about the status of their case.
“What case?” asked the officer on duty. There was no report. Eventually, after pressure from talk radio and television reporters, police launched an investigation.
Less than one year later, a headline in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said it all:
“Hundreds of assault cases misreported by Milwaukee police department. City’s violent crime rate lowered based on faulty data.”
In Minneapolis, a talk show host at the CBS affiliate was patiently explaining to his listeners how a recent epidemic of racial violence in that city was an anomaly. And he refused to believe police and newspapers were ignoring it.
A caller named Haley soon set him straight when she told him about how a black mob beat her son, breaking several bones in his face.
The incident is recounted in “White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Racial Violence to America and How The Media Ignore It.”
Haley set out to find the criminals. And “nobody did anything about it,” she said. They would not look at security cameras video tape. They would not help her look at it. “But they didn’t care. I get flamed up thinking about it. They basically told me they had bigger fish to fry.”
In Riverhead, N.Y., neighboring the Hamptons on Long Island, 750 black people were fighting and destroying property in the street at 2 a.m. The violence was so intense the local police issued a Code 3 emergency call for help from five surrounding police departments.
Stories from nearby newspapers, interviews with local police officers and postings on local Internet sites and Twitter confirmed the nature and extent of the racial violence.
But the locals wanted nothing to do with this July 2012 incident: The editor of a local newsletter denied anything at all had happened to disturb the peace in her bucolic neighborhood: “I know this even though I wasn’t there – because there were no arrests. If there had been lawlessness and violence, there would have been arrests.”
Riverhead City Councilman John Dunleavy added: “This was simply a very large block party, with no incidents, and no action had to be taken.”
In Seattle, Nihan Thai was beaten on the doorsteps of his inner city neighborhood. Seattle’s King 5 News wanted to know, “Is crime going unreported in parts of Seattle?”
“Thai started visiting his neighbors, they had a lot to say, and soon he realized he was doing his own crime survey. Thai knocked on 49 doors. Thirty-two people were home. How many of them had been victims of a crime since moving to the neighborhood? All but three.
“Many victims told Thai they’d never reported the crimes to police. ‘It happens to them so often that after 2 or 3 times they stopped reporting because they didn’t see any progress,’ said Thai.”
In Atlanta, Screen on the Green at Piedmont Park was an annual family ritual for 15,000 people who enjoyed movies under the stars. In 2010, a mob of hundreds of black people tore through the crowd, beating, stealing, marauding. Result: one police report.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Dozens of eyewitnesses from last Thursday’s Screen on the Green at Piedmont Park offered similar accounts of unruly – and sometimes violent – teens taking over the event with little resistance from security officers. But only one incident related to the fracas was reported to authorities, police say.”
Many of the witnesses said there were no police to take reports. Others were too busy trying to stop the riot.
In Wilmington, Del., store owners say police do not respond to frequent calls to report shoplifting. “It happens all the time,” said one store owner. “We have it on video. But the police won’t do anything about it or even file a report.”
Also in Wilmington in August 2012, a group of 10 black people attacked a minister, knocking him unconscious. He waited for police for more than an hour before going to the hospital without filing a police report.
At a community meeting several days later, neighbors talked about the violence in that neighborhood, and how they did not report it because they feared retaliation – one of the main reasons for not reporting crime cited in the Department of Justice study.
Twenty percent of the victims also lack confidence in the ability of police to do anything about the lawlessness, says the study.
In schools, 75 percent of the 450,000 violent crimes that happen every year were not reported during this five year period.
South Philadelphia High School could be the poster child. For several years ending in 2010, Asian students reported daily violence at the hands of black students in this predominantly black school. Teachers, school security guards and the principal ignored the complaints.
The principal even blamed the violence on the Asian students, saying they antagonized the black students.
After the initial complaints started to appear in the media, the principal gave the Asian students a pamphlet telling them how to act and speak in such a way as to avoid violence in the future.
At NBC News, anchor Melissa Harris-Perry and Harvard professor Leila Ahmed were talking with Mona Eltahawy about her article on violence against women in the Arab and Muslim world. Harris and Ahmed worried that reporting crimes to police or the media would make blacks and Muslims look bad to people who:
“… can look at your article and say ‘ahhh, look at how horrible those men, or those societies, or that religion is.’ And that is part of the reason why, for example, we have an under-reporting of rape and domestic violence in African-American communities. Because we know the violence enacted on black men by police, so we often don’t call. Right?”
A few minutes later the Harvard professor chimed in:
“You began, Melissa, by noting that some things in the African-American community are not publicized precisely because of the racism,” said Dr. Ahmed as Harris-Perry nodded in agreement on the split screen.
“Mona, I appreciate what you do,” continued Ahmed. “I would love it if – I understand if you want to get your message across. It’s an important message. But if possible [you should not] give fuel, fodder to people who simply hate Arabs and Muslims in this climate of our day.”
In Baltimore, reporters lament that people who report large racial disturbances in the Inner Harbor just don’t care about crime statistics that show people worry too much about it.
Denise Kostak was visiting the Inner Harbor in May of this year when, from her hotel room, she saw a large group of black people fighting and destroying property on the streets below.
After returning to her New Jersey home, Kostak made several calls to police and Baltimore Sun reporters wanting to know what happened to people who were creating the mayhem.
Nothing. “There were no police reports,” Kostak said. “No story. They just moved them along.”
The Baltimore Sun explained it all in a headline: “Downtown mobs – what police call routine others describe as scary.”
“For the police, it was just another group of kids they had to push out of downtown. They made no arrests, saw no crime, had no reason to make an announcement. There’s not even a report – it’s just something that happens.”
“Are they right? Did they unfairly judge the city by one experience? In the end, it really doesn’t matter. Impressions matter. Crime stats do not.”
Curiously, just three days before, the same newspaper ran a story about how the police misreported a St. Patrick’s Day 2012 riot that involved 500 to 1,000 black people, maybe more. Not just the 10 or so originally said to be involved.
The incident that kicked off the Sun’s investigation was the viral video of a black mob beating, robbing and stripping the clothes from a tourist on the streets of the Inner Harbor. The criminals involved posted it on YouTube.
The Sun gathered police audio tapes from the riot. One tape featured an exchange between a police helicopter pilot and dispatcher who wanted to know where the mobs were forming:
“They’re everywhere,” he answered.
Azhar Bhatti, a driver for Checker Cab, found himself in the middle of a mob scene, trapped at Baltimore and Light streets.
“There was a lot of people, fighting, arguing, cursing, fists flying,” he said. “You didn’t know who was fighting who. Police were there and they did their best, to be honest, but it looked like the number of police officers was not enough for that mob. It was scary.”
Less than a week later, Maryland State legislator Pat McDonough called on the governor and mayor of Baltimore to create a “no-travel” zone there because “Black mobs are terrorizing Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.”
Maryland’s political establishment and the Baltimore Sun lined up to excoriate him as “dangerous” and a “race-baiter” and “misinformed.”
A spokesman for the mayor of Baltimore reminded everyone that his boss had “reduced crime to historic lows. As an elected official, Del. McDonough should show more respect for the work our police officers do with the community every day to make Baltimore safer.”
Gov. O’Malley, former mayor of Baltimore, told the Sun he did not know how McDonough could be unaware that “Baltimore had cut its crime rate more than any American city of comparable size.”
The easiest way to cut the crime rate to zero is to “remove all the police and stop taking reports,” McDonough said.
In Chicago, after a series of flash robs, Rep. Bobby Rush – a former Black Panther leader – said this type of crime has existed in there for as long as he can remember.
The only reason people are paying attention now is the criminals have left the ghetto for greener pastures.
“You know as well as I – shootings, killings and flash mobs,” Rush told the Local CBS station. “This is a new one now. Flash mobs, pepper spray assaults by young men have dominated this weekend’s news. I’m disturbed because it happens on the South Side on a regular basis. It seems as though when it happens on the North Side, then it’s newsworthy.”
For the people who did not know, black columnist Stella Foster let the cat out of the bag:
“I heard from a reader who informed this columnist that the flash mob incidents have been going on for the longest time on the South Side with virtually no media mentions nor any real action on the part of our Chicago Police Department.
“The reader told me that certain drugstores and supermarkets have been attacked by groups of young males, who would congregate in the parking lots of these businesses, walk into the stores, take what they wanted and then boldly walk out and jump on bikes for their getaway.
“When the reader asked why the store employees didn’t call the police, the response was, ‘We stop calling the police because it happens so frequently that the police stop responding.’”
The Second City Cop is a blog for and by Chicago police officers. After a recent violent weekend featuring three attacks of black mobs in the 018 beat, the downtown area, the blog reported:
“And for the record, the ‘three’ ‘muggings’ that are being ‘investigated?’ Add a zero to that for incidents occurring last night in 018. Crime is down and if no one reports it or the media doesn’t get a hold of it? It never happened.’”