Ghettoside Book Summary By Jill Leovy

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Ghettoside by Jill Leovy (2015) is a compelling book that provides an in-depth look at police failure to protect black communities and the high homicide rate that plagues these neighborhoods.

The book covers topics such as the history of the problem, societal implications of the violence, and possible solutions.

Leovy offers an unique perspective on the social injustices occurring within America's inner city environments and offers much-needed insight into how this problem has been allowed to persist for so long.

With research and real-world examples, Ghettoside provides readers with a comprehensive understanding of not only why this occurs, but also what can be done to help turn things around.

Ghettoside Book Summary

Book Name: Ghettoside (A True Story of Murder in America)

Author(s): Jill Leovy

Rating: 4/5

Reading Time: 14 Minutes

Categories: Society & Culture

Author Bio

Jill Leovy is the award-winning author and journalist behind Ghettoside.

Not only does she work as a crime correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, but in 2007, she also launched the Homicide Report - the first blog to tell stories about every single murder incident in LA with great detail.

This book is her first foray into published writing but it's no surprise that her experience in journalism has enabled her to craft a powerful story filled with insights and elements of riveting crime reporting.

An Analysis Of Jill Leovy’s Theories On Law Enforcement And Black Communities

Jill Leovy’s

We’ve all heard heartbreaking stories in recent years about how police shootings in black communities often go unpunished and unsolved.

But why is it that there’s such a terrible relationship between the police and these communities?

Journalist Jill Leovy spent her career studying cops, especially those in the Los Angeles Police Department, and she has concluded that the only way forward is to put more effort into investigating and solving crimes than trying to prevent them all.

In Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, Leovy looks at why so many offenders in black neighborhoods go un-convicted.

She reveals how better solving of crimes can help prevent them from occurring again as well as explains what the phrase “No Human Involved” meant for racist cops within the LAPD.

What’s ultimately discovered is that by understanding why these cases often fail in black communities, we can be better equipped at improving the system from within.

The Unfortunate Reality Of High Homicide Rates Among Black Males In The Us

The grim truth is that black men make up a disproportionately large number of the homicide victims in the United States.

In certain parts of the country, their chance of getting murdered is as high as 1 in 35 – a shocking statistic for one of the most developed nations in the world.

In Los Angeles alone, young black men are killed two to four times more often than their Hispanic counterparts, even if they live in the same neighborhoods.

Across the nation, although they make up a mere 6 percent of the population, they account for 40 percent of homicide victims.

During the early 1990s, the rate of homicides in LA was astonishingly high – 368 out of every 100,000 black men aged 20-29.

This number was comparable to per capita death rates experienced by American soldiers during and after Operation Iraqi Freedom 2003.

But despite nationwide efforts over the last two decades to lower homicide rates, there has been no corresponding dip in murders specifically involving black males.

This disparity has remained constant all the way back to late 19th century records.

It’s an understandable outrage that such an alarmingly large number of people keep dying due to such senseless violence; yet authorities still have not taken enough steps to prevent this heartbreaking loss of life among our society‘s most vulnerable members.

Injustice In Plain Sight: The Disregard Of Black Homicides And Its Historical Roots

In cases of homicides involving black male victims, the chances of the perpetrators being prosecuted is shockingly low.

In fact, in the early 1990s in Los Angeles, only 36 percent of these perpetrators were convicted.

That’s an incredibly low number when you compare it to the conviction rate of other demographic groups.

This means that even if someone is brought to justice and accused of murder, they don’t always face proper punishment or penalties for their actions.

What’s worse is that this injustice often goes unnoticed as murders of black people are rarely reported by either police officers or members of the public.

All too often it’s written off as “gang violence” or discounted under the outdated term “NHI – No Human Involved”.

The Ghettoside book looks into the historical and structural reasons behind why so many perpetrators get away with such serious crimes.

It paints a picture of how excessive neglect and indifference to crimes against black people have allowed for this injustice to continue all these years, and are contributing factors for why in most cases,

The Historical Roots Of A Lack Of State Monopoly On Violence In Black Communities In The Us

Black Communities

Throughout history, black communities have lacked a state monopoly on violence.

Put simply, this means that the government does not always effectively or reliably intervene when it comes to personal safety in these communities.

This began during the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras in the American South, where police forces functioned with a racist hierarchy and had little concern for protecting all citizens equally.

The situation only worsened when large portions of southern black communities began relocating to northern industrial cities.

Here, police forces routinely patrolled these neighborhoods aggressively, often resorting to violence against those who dared fight back – resulting in riots like those seen in Watts and Newark in the 1960s.

This kind of institutionalized racism and mistrust toward justice has held strong within many black communities up until today.

How A Lack Of State Monopoly On Violence Leads To Ineffective Law Enforcement And Shadow Systems Of Justice

Lawlessness in black communities has led to the emergence of alternate systems of justice that cultivate violence and resist sanctioned legal channels.

Without the threat of State intervention, people turn to personally using violence to resolve issues such as small debts or not being allowed into parties.

This creates a system built on unwritten codes of allegiance and etiquette—and one which is much harder for law enforcement officials to intervene in.

This helps explain why witnesses in high-crime areas like South Central Los Angeles are so reluctant to come forward—snitching (telling on someone) is seen as an ultimate offense within their street justice system.

As witnesses play such a crucial role in criminal cases, this contributes significantly to the low conviction rates of homicides in those areas because there’s nobody willing to go against the code and speak up.

All in all, it’s clear that alternate systems of justice have come about as a product of lawlessness rather than something that causes it, with serious implications for how criminal cases can be solved and ultimately how justice is served.

Changing Police Strategies To Counteract Systemic Racism In The Criminal Justice System

The US police forces are making a critical error by focusing on preventative measures at the expense of investigations.

This shift in focus has done more damage than good to both the police and the communities they serve.

Rather than doing their due diligence and investigating crimes, US police forces have chosen to try to minimize potential threats by patrolling, making mass arrests, and taking other “preventative” actions.

On its face, this makes sense: it is certainly better to take preventive measures rather than waiting until a crime occurs and then attempting to investigate it.

Unfortunately what this practice ignores is that investigations require time and resources to build relationships with locals, gather witness testimonies, and investigate each individual case thoroughly.

This is something a lot of people don’t think about because these investigations are seen as secondary work compared to patrolling for crime.

As a result, homicide investigations particularly can be incredibly understaffed and underfunded when waves of crime occur.

But the worse part of all this is that it leads to an even deeper mistrust between police officers and minority communities.

By continuously arresting black youth for minor infractions like marijuana possession or shoplifting while seemingly not doing anything about major sources of distress such as murder and assault tends to reinforce lower-income black communities’ notion that law enforcement does not care about them– therefor leading them less inclined towards cooperating with official detectives in cases involving homicides.

It’s clear that the US police force’s focus on preventative measures at the cost of proper investigation has been ineffective, damaging both citizens’ trust in the public security service as well as its own officers’ ability to solve cases quickly– which only further contributes creating an environment where violent crimes can run rampant unchecked.

It Is Possible To Re-Establish The Trust Of Communities By Solving Homicide Cases


When it comes to solving the homicide epidemic in poor black communities, law enforcement could begin to re-establish a state monopoly on violence by focusing on cracking down on murder cases.

This isn’t just possible, it’s pretty simple – all it takes is some persistence.

From personal testimonies and rumors from the Ghettoside Information Network, police would have access to key details that often lead to solving even the most difficult homicides.

But officers must also be willing to invest their time into reassuring witnesses of their safety and building trust with local communities.

Doing this is essential if any progress is going to be made towards mending relationships between law enforcement and communities of color.

And ultimately, if more homicides are solved, police departments can show that victims’ lives no matter their race or background will be valued and protected rather than ignored or mishandled as has been done in the past.

Wrap Up

Ghettoside by Jill Leovy is an important book that provides a sweeping look at the criminal justice system and its failings, particularly in underprivileged black communities in the US.

It’s clear from the evidence that this system has been failing to respond adequately to violence and death which has led to increased homicide rates, low conviction rates, and the existence of shadow justice systems.

The key message of the book is that if police forces shift their priorities to solving homicides instead of resorting to tactics like harassing residents, then progress can be made.

By doing this, police forces can start to make communities safer and provide a greater sense of security for everyone.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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