Define "Crime"

The Boston Globe survey of attitudes toward casinos, reported this past Sunday, contained some interesting data about the different views of whites and blacks. It's important to note that the number of African Americans responding was very small (properly reflecting their numbers statewide), so the data is not scientifically reliable. Nevertheless, I think there's an interesting disparity.

Asked whether they agree with the statement, "Casino gambling will lead to more crime in Massachusetts," 39% of white respondents agreed and 54% disagreed; in both cases, pretty evenly split between agreeing "strongly" and "somewhat." African-Americans, on the other hand, were 14% agree/74% disagree, with just 2% strongly agreeing, and 47% strongly disagreeing.

One reason for that could be that many African Americans in Massachusetts are already experiencing a very real and immediate crime problem, that white residents rarely experience first-hand. It's hard to get worked up about the theoretical possibility of graft, loan sharking, or prostitution, when you have to worry about whether your son will get to school and back without being shot or stabbed. Here are the top responses to the question: What is the most important problem facing the state today?

                  White      Black
Taxes           18%      15%
Health care   13%       8%
Roads/bridges  11%      0%
Education      9%      6%
Jobs/economy   7%   15%
State budget   5%       2%
Crime            3%      22%

The survey shows that back in April, crime was at 14% overall in the "most important problem" response, but has now dropped to 4%. That's not because there's been a huge drop in the crime problem, however.

In fact, Boston had a significantly more violent summer this year than it did last year. From July 1st through September 30, according to BPD data, shootings were up 30% (from 88 to 115), and aggravated assaults up 7% (from 1156 to 1238).

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