Lake County prosecutor says lack or morals, loss of family behind black crime
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent October 12, 2012 6:53PM
Updated: November 14, 2012 3:06PM
If elected officials want to see crime numbers fall, they need to be prepared to have some frank discussions about the underlying social causes behind the problem.
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter told a gathering of the Lake County Advancement Committee at Teibel’s restaurant in Schererville on Friday that it does not matter how many criminals his office and others like it put behind bars if officials do not begin a conversation on the breakdown of the family unit that is behind the trend.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in Gary, East Chicago and Hammond, the three communities in Lake County that make up the bulk of the county’s violent crime cases. The cities are not unlike other urban settings where crime rates are high. Turn on any news channel in any city and you will see reports of instances of violent crimes, he said.
“You have to ask, ‘Why is this? What is this all about?’ ” Carter said.
He said the problem lies within the African-American community, and most politicians back away from taking up the subject for fear of being labeled racist.
He lauded vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan’s attempt to address the question posed to him during the debate Thursday, where the candidate attributed the problem to a breakdown of family and moral values in some urban communities. Carter said the heat Ryan will take likely will make the candidate back away from the subject, but Ryan was right.
“It’s not racist. It’s reality,” Carter said.
While the African-American community makes up 24 percent of the U.S. population, it makes up 70 percent of all violent criminal offenders. “Why are my people, African-Americans, so violent?” Carter asked.
The prosecutor said he does not buy the argument economics are at the root of crime. The problem, he said, lies deeper. Carter said he agrees with Ryan the loss of family, morals and responsibility is at the heart of the crime problem. He said children are being raised in fatherless homes by drug-abusing mothers and have no moral compass to help guide them into adulthood. He decried teen pregnancies and children, themselves not raised properly, thrust into the position of parent.
“The reality of it is we have a situation in this county where people are not taking care off their children. You can put a police officer on every corner in Lake County and you’re not going to reduce the crime,” Carter said.
More police officers would mean more arrests, but crime rates would not change, Carter said. He said only about 3 percent of all crime is actually prosecuted. Much of the remainder is unreported.
He said the difference between communities with low crime rates and those with higher crime rates is due in part to the pride and self-investment the people in the low-crime areas have about their community, something lacking in high-crime areas. Carter said residents in a low-crime neighborhood would not tolerate a drug dealer moving in next door. Those neighbors would report the activity. In urban areas like Gary, East Chicago and Hammond, that is not the case.
Carter said education and awareness about the root cause of the problem are the needed first steps to make a difference.
“If we can correct these problems, we wouldn’t have the problems we have today,” Carter said.