1920s

Topics: Murder, Homicide, New York City Pages: 5 (1513 words) Published: September 20, 2014
ONE PERSON IN EVERY TEN THOUSAND met a violent death in the 118 leading cities of the United States last year. To Chicago went the doubtful distinction of having the most homicides—510; New York City, with approximately twice the population of Chicago, had 340. In twenty-eight of the leading cities the rate was 9.9 per 100,000, as against 11.0 in 1925. "Slight as it is, the reduction is encouraging," observes the collector of these statistics, Dr. Frederick L. Hoffman, writing in The Spectator, a New York City insurance journal. "But," he adds, "our murder record of approximately 12,000 persons each year is a most serious indictment of American civilization, and evidence of lawlessness which has no counterpart in any other country in the world." As if to confirm the statement, the Baltimore Sun finds that there were only 17 murders in London in 1926, and that there were arrests in 16 of the 17 cases. In Dr. Hoffman's statistics, we are reminded by the Baltimore paper, no distinction is made between degrees of murder and voluntary manslaughter and justifiable homicide. All are included in death by violence. It will probably astonish most readers," notes the Providence Journal, "to learn that in the matter of homicides, Jacksonville, Florida, headed the list of American cities, having a rate of 75.9 per 100,000 population." Tampa, Birmingham, and Memphis come next on Dr. Hoffman's list. In an effort to learn just why these prosperous Southern cities led the other 114, telegrams were dispatched to several newspapers. According to the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union: "Jacksonville's rate is going to be better the next time an inquiry is made. Already, within the present year, there has been noticed a speedier handling of criminals, and juries have been found that would convict, and judges unafraid to rule for the safety of the people and against the wrong-doers who have violated laws of God and man. "A movement is under way to reduce crime in Florida. The legislature in session recently took cognizance of the need for more stringent laws regarding serious crimes and did what was possible to bring about changes. Florida is undertaking to check the crime wave through every possible means, and proposes to give speedy trial to those evil-doers who are apprehended and to award such penalties as will be effective in preventing repetition where convictions are obtained. "Perhaps the placing of the record clearly before the people may bring about a better state of affairs, through sectional and State and city pride." Replies were not received from Tampa and Memphis, but the staggering killing record of these and other Southern cities, believes the Baltimore Sun, "is due to their large negro population." Says the Birmingham News: "The announcement that Birmingham ranks fourth among American cities in the proportion of homicides to population in 1926 is a summons to serious thinking and sound action which this community should not fail to heed.

"In the light of the record of 124 murders, the question suggests itself: 'Have we been so intent on capitalizing the resources and opportunities at hand, that we have lost sight of larger values?' "The social implications of the situation are easily grasped. This is in many respects a pioneer city. In less than a generation, it has changed from a small town to a great metropolis. It has drawn to it a large body of people from the farm, the factory and other fields. It is continuing to act as such a magnet. The presence of uprooted folk, finding themselves in a strange environment, of industrial transients, constantly on the move, hag made for a certain flux. The city's life is not yet crystallized—we have not yet found our soul—the process of stabilization checked by accessions of populations and interests, has not yet given Birmingham the character and form which is described by the term 'settled down.' "In the hectic atmosphere generated by such a social situation, the things which make for...
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