The end of gangs — policing, culture, or leaded gasoline?

Pacific Standard magazine penned a long form piece on the success of better policing against gangs in Los Angeles. Cops started using statistics (CompStat), community policing, bans on congregating in public (no street slinging) and federal RICO statutes to take down entire neighborhood gangs, while gentrification changed the demographics of the neighborhoods. 

But others are speculating it is the end of the use of leaded gas in automobiles that directly caused a plunge in crime:

It might also be culture and the Internet. A redditor writes:

Gangs are cultural social groups. They thrive on regional and ethnic pockets of culture. All culture has become globalized and somewhat diffused. Especially "urban" culture. Regional urban culture in America used to be really clearly pronounced from state to state. For example, young people in poor neighborhoods in Compton didn't dress like kids in Miami hoods. Rappers in NY didn't sound like rappers in the Bay Area. Nowadays the internet has connected the world, and so young people are no longer isolated into regional cultures. Poor kids in California wear the same fashions as kids in Kansas city now. The new generation of rappers are almost impossible to identify by state or region. A$AP Rocky and Tyler the Creator and Drake have no regional style whatsoever, because they grew up with no regional cultural limitations. They are global.

This is a big part of what's happened to gangs, IMO. The youth have no more regional pockets of culture for gangs to live and breath.

In any case, the streets are safer, and that's something for which Los Angeles can be thankful.

Hat tip HN

The Detail - an indie adventure game worth playing

There's this tiny game studio that released a very playable point-and-click adventure game, and I played through it just now. Put simply, the game is HBO's The Wire in old school PC adventure game format. It's about than an hour of story and action but a very enjoyable one with real suspense. They've stripped down the mechanics of a typical point-and-click to just that which will progress the plot, which makes the whole mechanism quite streamlined and cuts back on the hunt-and-click aspect of these games. They've managed to really generate palpable tension in this storyline. You're never sure if your character will make it through, and your actions feel like they have weight. 

The game was created by a small team in Finland, and it looks like they were recently greenlit on Steam. They've released episode 1 of 5, and as a fan of these kinds of games I do hope this studio keeps going and brings the whole series to fruition. This thing is compelling, so if you've got a PC, check it out on Steam

I love seeing people create something new, and this is one game that deserves to have a bigger audience.

Generational shift: Millennials buy smartphones, not cars

Cars, unending tract homes, and cul-de-sacs are all ways of the past that are fading out. People want to live in more urban centers with rich public transit options, like the above futuristic vision of Urban Alloy Towers in would-be Queens, NY. 

The Atlantic Monthly expanded on this recently in The Cheapest Generation:

Smartphones compete against cars for young people’s big-ticket dollars, since the cost of a good phone and data plan can exceed $1,000 a year. But they also provide some of the same psychic benefits—opening new vistas and carrying us far from the physical space in which we reside. “You no longer need to feel connected to your friends with a car when you have this technology that’s so ubiquitous, it transcends time and space,” Connelly said.

In other words, mobile technology has empowered more than just car-sharing. It has empowered friendships that can be maintained from a distance. The upshot could be a continuing shift from automobiles to mobile technology, and a big reduction in spending.


The old cul-de-sacs of Revolutionary Road and Desperate Housewives have fallen out of favor with Generation Y. Rising instead are both city centers and what some developers call “urban light”—denser suburbs that revolve around a walkable town center. “People are very eager to create a life that blends the best features of the American suburb—schools still being the primary, although not the only, draw—and urbanity,” says Adam Ducker, a managing director at the real-estate consultancy RCLCO.

And why buy a car and have it sit for 23 hours a day when you can get a car via Zipcar or Uber on demand via smartphone? 

This makes me hopeful for the future of cities as the younger generations surge into voters and key positions of power in government. 

The Internet isn't here to ruin us: Refutation of technophobes in this month's Fast Co

It was 1925, and the car was destroying America's youth. "The general effect of the automobile," wrote Princeton University Dean Howard McClenahan, "was to make the present generation look lightly at the moral code, and to decrease the value of the home." With a car, the youngsters could drive anywhere on Sunday. McClenahan didn't think they'd drive to church. And if they didn't, he argued, they'd become devilish and depraved.

This did not come to pass. Nor did phonographs create a "marked deterioration in American music," as composer John Philip Sousa feared in 1906. Nor did the telephone "break up home life and the old practice of visiting friends," as the Knights of Columbus warned in 1926. Nor did writing--a growing activity in the ancient world--"create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories," as Plato himself hypothesized. Some 2,400 years later, the Atlantic floated the same thesis about search engines. Its headline: "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" Proclamations like these should remind us that every technological revolution will spawn naysayers, who for the most part should be ignored.

Cars. Phonographs. Telephones. Writing. Enabling technologies are scary. They change our brains. I agree with this hopeful article — we are pretty happy about having cars, being able to talk to people on the phone, and, well, being able to read and write. So let's make the Internet continue to be a thing for which future generations will be thankful.