Huffington Post

Rudolf, John (March 19, 2012). “Stockton’s Poor Mired In Violence After Police Cuts, Recession.” The Huffington PostSTOCKTON, Calif. –- Last year, Pablo Cano put to rest 12 murder victims, the most he’s handled in four decades as an undertaker in this troubled city. Many of the dead were still in their teens. No homicides have come his way so far this year, but in late February he buried a 16-year-old shot in the head, this time in an apparent accident. The job, he says, wears on him. “I’m so tired of burying these young kids who barely have a chance to start their lives,” says Cano, 70.

Some people grimly joke that the wave of Stockton murders — which hit an all-time high of 58 in 2011 — must be good for Cano’s bottom line. That’s hardly the case. Often the families of victims can scrape together only a few hundred dollars even after turning to friends and neighbors for help. He sometimes offers steep discounts so he doesn’t have to turn them away.

Experts emphasize that crime rates in many poor and working-class neighborhoods are no higher than the national average, and that poverty alone does not predict danger. Yet where high crime does persist, it is invariably in areas in deep economic distress.

For residents of these impoverished areas, the crime epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s is not a fading memory, but an all-too-present reality. “There are certain neighborhoods that feel like war zones,” says Jeffrey A. Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.