Experts Wrong: No Link Between Crime & Poverty
New Census Bureau data released last week revealed that Kiryas Joel, the all-Satmar village (pop. 21,000) in upstate Orange County, is the poorest community in the entire United States, based on several economic criteria, such as the percentage living below the poverty line, the percentage on food stamps and median income. In alll the 50 states, only Carbondale, Illinois ($15,799) has a lower median income than Kiryas Joel. ($15,848).
Says The Times Herald-Record, Kiryas Joel “is poorer than crumbling big cities like Detroit and noted slums like East St. Louis.” Experts in this paper and elsewhere link KJ’s poverty to the village’s religious culture and the pressure to have many children.
And yet, THR’s great expert, Samuel Heilman, professor of Jewish Studies at Queens College, misses one extraordinary fact: There is virtually no crime in Kiryas Joel, beyond some broken windows and the occassional punch in the nose related to internal Satmar rivalries.
For many decades, we’ve been told by hundreds of professors and hundreds of editorials that poverty breeds crime, even terrorism, but there are no professors or editorials praising Kiryas Joel for having almost no crime despite the worst poverty, let alone explaining how this is possible. To doubt that poverty causes crime on the college campus is like doubting the certainty of global warming.
According to BestPlaces.net, which ranks communities according to FBI data on a scale from 1 (best) to 10 (worst), in violent crime and property crime, Kiryas Joel gets the best possible grade (1) in both categories. Carbondale (the city closest in median income) ranks 5 in violent crime, 7 in property. Buffalo, N. Y. has long been in a downward economic spiral, and ranks 8 and 7. In Westchester, White Plains, ranked 2 and 5. Most Jews may not realize it, but Sullivan County’s Monticello has become the devil’s plaground, with an 8 in violent crime; 7 in property crime. New York City ranks 6 and 5.
(Violent crime includes murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The US average is 3. Property crime includes burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The US average is 3.)
How is it not a front-page story everywhere when a town that ranks worst in poverty, is ranked the safest, particularly when the median age there is 14 – teenagers, the worst demographic for crime?
Perhaps the answer is, simply, they love God and God’s laws. Many people call Satmar “extremists.” That’s true. They have extremely low crime, defying the social scientists because they won’t defy God.
Instead of blaming the families of Kiryas Joel for bringing on poverty by bringing up so many children, the opposite is true. The strength of the families is a blessing. The families of Kiryas Joel are the reason crime is so low. The biggest statistical tip-off to a high crime rate is children being raised by unwed single mothers. There are no – zero – unwed single mothers in Kiryas Joel. The lack of crime reflects that.
In no particular order:
- There a no single unwed mothers in Kiryas Joel that the public knows about. That does not mean there are no single unwed mothers. There are. But Satmar doesn't rush to advertise this or to get state aid, bexcause of the shame publicity brings. Past that, Stmar children marry at 17 or 18 by decree, not by choice, and any unwed pregnacy can be swiftly turned into a pre-birth marriage. And this is what happens.
- Kiryas Joel is a homogeneous community. It is so in part because of illegal tactics employed by Satmar to keep it that way. Homogeneous communities usually have lower rates of violent crime. In most societies, violence is saved for the Other, not your cousin or neighbor.
- Past that, stealing from or injuring community members – or simply deviating from community norms in a small way – can easily lead to expulsion – which itself leads to loss of income, housing, social services and social networks. In other words, the costs of committing crimes against other community members are usually too high to make the crimes worthwhile.
- But, while these crimes still happen, police are not called except in very rare cases. Crimes and other disputes are handled internally and therefore do not show up in census data or crime statistics. That does not mean these crimes do not happen.
- Rampant welfare fraud, tax dodges, and other illegal scams permeate haredi society. Kiryas Joel is no exception.
- And there is the issue of sexual molestation of children and the coverups that go hand in hand with it.
- Yemenite Jews were held against their will in Kiryas Joel. (That would be kidnapping, Jonathan.)
- And we also have the issue of teenage kids who do not want to be Satmar hasidim and how those children are treated by Kiryas Joel and Satmar.
In short, Mark is either woefully ignorant or lying. Either way, he should not be an editor at the Jewish Week.