Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Outstanding letter in the Wall Street Journal


Radley Balko's point about immigrants helping to make El Paso, Texas a safe city ("Notable & Quotable," July 9) is valid, but it doesn't go far enough in explaining why this might be so.

Since the publication of the 2007 CQ Press survey that labeled Detroit the nation's "most dangerous" large city, I have worked with a group trying to identify the obstacles to significant crime reduction.

El Paso, the third "safest" city in the survey, is about as poor and the people as undereducated as in Detroit. The most distinctive socioeconomic difference between El Paso and Detroit is the Texas city's far greater number of married couples as a percentage of total households: 48% versus Detroit's 24%.

Looking at the 2007 survey's 10 "safest" and 10 "most dangerous" large cities, the "safest" city, San Jose, Calif. has the highest number of married couples as a percentage of total households; the second "safest," Honolulu, has the second highest number; the third "safest," El Paso, the third highest number. The five "most dangerous" large cities have the lowest number of married couples as a percentage of total households. Today, 91,000 of Detroit's 288,000 households are headed by single females, with no husband present.

There was a time, not so long ago, when women in this predicament were called "welfare queens." In reality, they are the result of a long and lamentable national history, poor leadership at many levels and poorly conceived public policies.

These public policies have afflicted whites as well as blacks. Thus the total out-of-wedlock birth rate in 1960 of 5% had grown by 1992 to more than 30%. The figure for blacks has now reached more than two-thirds of births.

Welfare reform in the mid-1990s moved in the right direction, but much more needs to be done. Policy helped create this situation, and policy should be used with far greater focus and purpose to redress it. At a minimum, the mere contrast between El Paso and Detroit should lead policy makers to look at the issue of family structure and its influence on crime rates.

Lewis I. Dale
Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.


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