A UMKC professor says Volker Campus is a safe haven from the violent crime that plagues the Kansas City Metro Area.
In 2015 Kansas City had the most homicides it’s seen since 2011. With a total of 109 homicides and an increase in violent crime, the city was reclaiming its title as one of the most violent cities in the United States.
Has UMKC’s Volker campus also seen this increase in violent crime? Are students at more of a risk because of it?
Criminology and Criminal Justice Professor Toya Like says no. Like has been at UMKC for 10 years and hasn’t seen a difference in crime. She believes the campus is still relatively safe.
“People are safer in school than they are anywhere else,” Like said.
“The crime that happens on UMKC’s campus is a product of routine activity,” Like said. “It’s an opportunity to commit crime.” What UMKC is experiencing is opportunity crime. Like uses the example of someone leaving their car unlocked, walking alone at night, or leaving their room unlocked. Criminals realize the opportunity and take it knowing the consequences they face.
According to Like, UMKC students shouldn’t worry about the campus being in close proximity to areas that have high rates of crime, but they should be aware of their surroundings and take measures to prevent opportunity crime from happening.
“Individuals who commit crime are not going to go to unfamiliar areas to commit crime,” Like said. “They commit crimes where they are most comfortable.”
Like said a criminal from the inner city is not going go to a suburban environment to commit a crime because they do not understand the social dynamics, policing patterns and how people move on a day-to-day basis and vice versa. They tend to stay in their areas because that is what they are used to.
UMKC Police Officer Jalonn Gordon, said he hasn’t seen any increase in crime either.
“It’s the same old same old,” Gordon said. According to UMKC Police’s records, four aggravated assaults happened in 2015 on the Volker campus and none happened in 2014, which supports both Gordon and Like’s statements.
Elijah Anderson, Sociology Professor at Yale University and Urban Ethnographer, says in his book “Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Like of the Inner City” that residents of poor inner city neighborhoods use the labels “decent” and “street” to determine social status and to evaluate judgments of one another.
Like says that these labels literally define the organization and structure of the community. The “street”-oriented families are not the dominant social group. They are the subculture.
“Essentially because of racial and economic inequalities you have generation of individuals who have given up on trying to penetrate the main stream,” Like said. “They have been blocked out.”
Like said if a child in a “street” family comes home with a bloody nose, the mother will most likely not wipe it and console the child. Instead, she tells her child to go back out there and earn her respect. In some cases, the mother will go out and fight for her son to earn the respect of others.
“Decent” families adhere to mainstream goals and ideals instead of turning to crime to try and achieve success. Even if they themselves will not leave these communities of high violence and crime, they hope that their children will. Because of this, their schedules are regulated and strict. They are a protected population. The children go from school to church, and then home.
The children of decent families are tracked into college prep programs in the same schools and institutions that the street families are in but the experience between the children are much different. While Like was working as an undergrad, she attempted to get into her old high school to interview these protected kids to see their success rate in areas of high violence and crime. Even as a respected student, she was not allowed to talk to these kids.
Like says that the means street families use to obtain respect is not a sadistic or crazy ideology. Mainstream society uses violence to resolve conflicts all the time such as war, the death penalty and lethal force when dealing with criminals. Police are held to a higher standard in society. They have the right to use lethal force to uphold the law and arrest criminals.
Society has legitimized this use of force and accepted it as law. There are individuals in crime-ridden communities that feel as if they are not able to access those means of law so they take matters into their own hands. Mainstream society has not legitimized this, therefore it is wrong. Although the subculture’s use of violence might be different and not accepted, it is all rooted and grounded in the same respect.
“Subcultures can never be totally at odds with the broader culture,” Like said.