The Scourge of Rootless, Predatory Males

Travis A. Ball

Last week 27-year-old Travis A. Ball allegedly shot and killed Virginia State Police Special Agent Michael T. Walter in an apparently unprovoked attack in the Mosby Court public housing project. The murder was the seventh homicide and one of about 20 shootings to take place in the troubled housing project so far this year.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has done commendable work fleshing out the circumstances of the murder and the background of the alleged killer, but a bigger story remains to be told. The crime gives us a window into the pathology of 21st-century American poverty. Through the story of Travis Ball we can gain insight not only into the social breakdown of inner-city African-Americans in public housing but the spreading social dysfunction among the poor of all races and ethnic groups.

The tip-off appears in Robert Zullo’s article in the T-D today: In his arrest warrant, Ball had listed as his address a home on the 1900 block of Redd Street in Mosby Court. But he had been banned from the property in 2016, and his name was registered on a 4,000-person list of people ineligible to live there. Shortly after that ban, according to a second T-D article, an emergency protective order was issued for the mother of one of Ball’s children. Court records show that Ball had engaged in several acts of domestic violence. The T-D articles indicate that he had two children with one woman, and hint that he may have fathered a child with a different woman.

Think about this: Mosby Court maintains a list of some 4,000 individuals who are banned from living in housing project of only 458 units. That is an astonishing number. The T-D reporting does not give us a profile of these people, but I would be willing to wager that the list is comprised overwhelmingly of men, like Ball, and that the vast majority have been blackballed for violent behavior on the project premises.

The problem is that the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RHHA) has no effective means of enforcing the list.

“The manpower that’s required, it’s hard to knock on doors on a daily basis,” said RRHA CEO T.K. Somanath. “Neighbors sometimes let us know, and we have our property management [and] maintenance folks inspecting these properties periodically. There are ways to find out if people are not abiding by the lease [which] causes these violations, and we take action.”

The housing authority disbanded its own seven-member police force in 2014 due to budget pressures and the conviction that residents would be better served if the agency deployed its resources consistent with its core mission of providing housing services. It is not clear from the article whether or not the RHHA police were used to enforce the banishment list. Whatever the case, there is no effective enforcement mechanism now.

I am entering the realm of conjecture here, and I advance the following observations not as fact but as operating hypotheses to be confirmed or rejected through follow-up reporting. The RHHA, according to its website, manages and maintains 12 housing developments for low-income families, seven developments for the low-income elderly and the disabled. The low-income housing, I suspect, are dominated by households of single mothers with one or more children. The number of households with married spouses and children approaches zero.

I conjecture the existence of a large floating population of under-employed, unmarried men in low-income communities — be they like Mosby Court or a rural trailer park — who lead a largely parasitical existence. They attach themselves to women as sexual partners, moving into their apartments, eating their food, and contributing only sporadically to the maintenance of the household. These relationships are typically unstable, fraught with domestic violence and child abuse. Men move from woman to woman, impregnating them with no concern for the welfare of the children. Sometimes they establish meaningful relationships with their biological children; often they do not. Nonpayment of child support is endemic. Often, women don’t even know for certain who the fathers are.

I further conjecture that the existence of this population of unattached males explains another widespread and unexplained phenomenon: that of childhood hunger. Low-income families have no trouble obtaining food stamps. Why are children going hungry? Why must school districts maintain breakfast and lunch programs? Why do charities provide children with backpacks of food to take home during weekends? Is it possible that many household food budgets are being stretched by the necessity to feed an adult male whose presence is entirely “off the books”?

The prevalence of unattached, freeloading and often violent males, I submit, is one of the great unacknowledged scourges of poverty in the United States today. Though poor themselves, many of these males are predators and they add immeasurably to the horror of poverty. They prey among the weak in their midst, inflicting routine domestic violence that never makes it into the newspapers (unless a murder occurs). They commandeer the limited resources of the women they live with, often resulting in the abuse and neglect of the women’s children — especially if the children are not their own.

It is not politically correct to portray 21-century American poverty in this way. Progressives are committed to the idea that the pathologies of poverty are the result of endemic injustices such as racism, income inequality, poor schools, and insufficient economic opportunity. Read the academic literature and the politicians’ press releases and you see nothing about the growing population of rootless, predatory males. Unless we acknowledge the realities of poverty, how can we ever hope to combat it?

Let me be 100% clear. Although I am extrapolating from an inner-city housing project, this problem is not unique to African-Americans. Rootless males are prevalent among poor whites, Hispanics and American Indians. (See my post about Jesse Lee Herald, a 27-year-old white man in Shenandoah County who had fathered seven children by six different women.)

This is one of the great untold stories of the United States today. But because of our politically blinkered thinking, we cannot see it.

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23 responses to “The Scourge of Rootless, Predatory Males

  1. well I don’t think it is “unrecognized” by a long shot – but of course there
    are different views as to what it is or is not – and why….

    unemployed males… unemployable males get involved in things that are often illegal …and violent – often and frequently in our society…inner city ad rural…

    and males in general – even the better educated and employed – are more violent than women in general.. most of the prison population for murder and other violent behavior are males – yet we never hear much “scourge” about that… we seem to accept it… ugh…

    but when you give a male kid in a poor neighborhood a crappy education so that he is basically functionally illiterate at graduation and cannot find employment – the rest that happens after that is fairly predictable and not such a mystery.. often includes trying to make money any way they can and often with illegal drugs… they inevitably get drawn into the criminal justice system which upon release makes them even less likely to find a job.

    do these guys become angry and violent towards others?

    do bears crap in the woods?

    you can hate the guy who did the deed – especially this guy in this case – but guys like this are a dime a dozen in our society – and their life story of a failure to be educated and a failure to find a job and provide for themselves – and their kids – … is common…

    It’s not like we don’t do something about it and maybe it is what we do about it that is part of the problem because we have more people (mostly guys) in prison than any other country in the world..

    think about it – this country is supposed to be the best country in the world – and yet we imprison our own people more than even despotic countries do.

    but we want to blame someone.. .. and not like we should not – but at some point do we ask ourselves how this happens – over and over and over..and more so in this country than most others other than 3rd world?

    when we fail to adequately educate kids – it has consequences for us all.. and the cycle will continue as long as we make excuses and assign blame instead of addressing it.

  2. Larry,

    Very good. You have stumbled inexorably into the truth. It’s all about education, the number one problem we face. Now…What’s your solution?

    “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” – Stephen Covey

    • Lord Crazy – we’ve been preaching to EACH OTHER! My history here in BR is well known with regard to my advocacy for the NEED for education to address many of our “problems”, not the least of which is entitlements.

      wel first to recognize this – the countries that are the best in the world and put us in 25th places are govt-operated systems…

      Now.. I’m saying RECOGNIZE that REALITY as a prerequisite to offering “solutions”.. rather than go off into wonderland with ideological beliefs..

      Having said that – I’m in favor of any/all non-public school approaches as long as they have standards, transparency and accountability so that we demand that they perform .. and not just promise some ideological concept.

      your turn…

  3. The myth of the predatory, unemployable male

    Jim sees these predatory males impregnating women, living in their housing, eating their food and spending their money. Having worked for 12 years with a charity in Washington’s inner city I’ll be the first to agree that this happens. However, the women are people of free will. Nothing requires them to open their doors to miscreants, nothing prevents them from using birth control, nothing stops them from throwing the bums out when they become excessively parasitic. No, this is the symbiotic relationship from hell I’m afraid.

    Larry questions the education system that leaves these men bereft of opportunity. However, the women who provide the food, shelter and money in
    these relationships received the same education. Why are they able to provide the grounding that the predatory males seek?

    I suspect there has always been poverty. In ancient Rome there was the “corn dole” – an early form of food stamps. Oliver Twist wanted more gruel. And so on. A quest to end poverty seems unlikely to succeed. I think the better question is whether those people for whom poverty and a subsistence lifestyle are acceptable can be kept reasonably safe, fed and given adequate housing. Additionally, can those people born into the fringes of society with the ambition to move into the mainstream make the move?

    • Don, of course women have free will. They tolerate the parasitism of rootless, freeloading males. Many are so indiscriminate in their sexual partners that they don’t know who fathered their children — hence the increasing recourse to paternity testing services. Many have substance abuse issues, trading sex for drugs, etc. There’s a lot more we can say. The syndrome is not entirely the fault of the males, and I’m sorry if I implied that to be so.

      One way or another, we have to come to grips with the fact that the 21st-century welfare system has created a subculture of poverty that may be more dysfunctional than any set of social arrangements ever before witnessed in human history.

  4. re: ” However, the women who provide the food, shelter and money in
    these relationships received the same education. Why are they able to provide the grounding that the predatory males seek?”

    you are totally correct. the difference?

    the Women receive entitlements, the EITC, the child tax credit, food stamps, MedicAid, housing vouchers, TANF, and school vouchers..

    the guys? not so much.. so they glom onto the women who do get the free stuff.

    re: always poverty

    yes.. totally agree again.. the question is how much on average in most advanced economy countries… in the same economic tier?

    so… if you gave the guys the same level of entitlements as the gals..would they still be evil and violent?

    😉

  5. “school vouchers”.. no.. I meant free & reduced lunches..

  6. Last week’s shooting of a State Police officer was indeed tragic, but BR keeps much the same narrative, over and over and over again. It is sadly not news that African-Americans have, percentage wise, more killings than others and most are between African-Americans. That’s been the case for years. W. J. Cash in “The Mind of the South” wrote about it in Charlotte in 1940.
    What can be done? Why aren’t there more such murders in higher income areas?
    That’s the real question. The answer is not some preachy tome about the need for responsibility and self-discipline and the horrors of unbridled young men taking up with women, impregnating the hell out of everything and then — murder.
    Jim Bacon has included the usual caveats but the headline, the police mugshot and all of it is just another in a series. Do Black Lives Matter? Are blacks shot more often by white police than they should be. Some people think so, but you never see those questions raised on this blog. I’m not expert and am white, but I did spend several years of my young career in inner cities covering crime. I don’t keep a score card but some of the most horrific killings I reported and wrote about involved rich white kids.

    • The media loves covering crimes committed by rich white people. Murders in the projects and trailer parks rarely generate as much interest. (The slaying of the state police officer is an exception — largely because the victim was… a white police officer.) Do local newspapers and TV stations care more about white victims than black victims? If so, does that make them racist? Did you find the crimes committed by rich white kids to be more interesting than routine stories of drug-related murders in the projects? If so, does that make you a racist?

      • re: ” Did you find the crimes committed by rich white kids to be more interesting than routine stories of drug-related murders in the projects? If so, does that make you a racist?”

        might depend on how one opines about these things.. in general.. more than one incident…. what’s the pattern over time? What the real nugget of internal thinking?

        For this particular guy – did he have a history of other violence towards others beyond the domestic dispute? Was he a known gun-carrying drug dealer or gang member or what?

        I’m not disregarding essence of the terrible act. – – but we do hear of lots of domestic disputes including even ones with elected officials – and police officers themselves… involved in domestic disputes – guns included and police officers die.

        How did that behavior alone merit his treatment by the police? Do the police “stake-out” all domestic dispute cases in general? Are they doing that on a regular basis at the “projects” but not other domestic dispute locations in other neighborhoods?

        If this guy has a long police record of violence against others, then no question.. At this point – I’m not seeing compete enough info..other than the fact that he did indeed kill a police officer and obviously intended to do it – and as such was far more dangerous to others than even the police officer apparently knew.

        but again – we hear of police officers getting shot and killed -fairly frequently on domestic disturbances on a frequent basis.. it’s actually considered one of the more dangerous incidents for police to handle..

  7. Peter – you got it… !!! Reading Bacon on this is like reading a compendium of all known perceived “you know who” stereotypes on the right!

    Sometimes I wonder if Bacon is well-intentioned but misguided but then other times.. I wonder not!

    😉

    no disrespect Jim…. seriously.. I respect your views.. but clearly we’re on different planets at times!

    • Yes, Larry, we are on different planets when it comes to poverty-related issues. We look at the problems through very different lenses. We all know the dominant paradigm that you share — it has driven social policy in the U.S. for more than 50 years. That paradigm doesn’t have much new to offer, except to explain away why U.S. welfare policy has created such negative outcomes. I’m looking through a different lens. Only a few social scientists and journalists have trod this path. We’ll see where it leads.

      • re: ” why U.S. welfare policy has created such negative outcomes”

        only if one assumes that things would be BETTER without any policy ..

        and basically assumes the policy is not helping at all..

        I reject that. I see the policy as helping but not the full solution.

        it’s like saying that none of the education programs “work” at all.. and they are all failures.. and doing nothing is “better’.

        I reject that.

        but the bigger issue is do folks on the other planet seriously believe that current policies are total failures and nothing is better or do they have their own ideas of “better”.

        It’s easy to blame .. it’s harder to fix.. do you thrown away partial fixes that do not do enough? That’s fine but get on the table with your “better”.

        I don’t see it.. to this point.. only blame on the other guys solutions and pie-in-the-sky ideological “ideas” that have no practical examples in existence.

        And no I do not see any virtue what-so-ever in ” Only a few social scientists and journalists have trod this path. “. Get the ideas out and on the table and let others see them and comment on them BEFORE you advocate wiping everything out and replacing it with an “idea”.

  8. I’m uncomfortable drawing any racial conclusions from individuals without a lot more facts. I don’t think violent tendencies have a racial connection per se. Nor do I know how much is related to genetics versus environment.

    I’m quite interested in DJR’s comments about the provision of the same educational resources to males that we provide to females. Why does the latter seem to do much better with the same classroom experiences and the same level of resources?

    • re: ” I don’t think violent tendencies have a racial connection per se. Nor do I know how much is related to genetics versus environment.”

      me neither.. and yet.. we keep hearing it here..

    • re: ” Why does the latter seem to do much better with the same classroom experiences and the same level of resources?”

      because they get a crap-load of entitlements as Moms that Guys don’t get?

      maybe?

      • You missed my point. Where are boys and girls (young men and young women) at 18 – the normal point of high school graduation? Seemingly, many more females have earned a high school diploma, better social skills and are either pursuing more education or are working at a job than are a similar number of males. Yet both had access to the same schools and the same resources.

        Why the general difference in result? And of course, there are exceptions. Some males come from poor backgrounds and flourish. Some females do much worse than their male classmates. But generally, we see better results from females from the same public inputs. Why?

  9. Jim,
    This particular rape and murder involved all whites. A girl of modest means was flirting around a foosball parlor. Several young men of wealth picked her up and took her to a ball field. They raped her. When she said she’d tell, they held a little board meeting and decided to beat her brains out with a tire iron. Their fathers were locally important people. I got to the scene at 6 a.m. that summer day just as the homicide detectives came. It is something I will never forget.

    • I don’t blame you for never forgetting. The crime sounds horrifying. And it would have been deemed horrifying whoever had committed it, and whomever the victim was. But it was all the more horrifying because the victim and perpetrators were white, n’est ce pas? That was not the kind of behavior one expects from rich white people. Do journalists apply different standards for the depth of coverage applied to crimes like that (or, to take another example, the murder of the Harvey family here in Richmond several years ago) and murders of faceless residents of the projects? If they do apply different standards, does that make them racist?

    • When it comes to horrific murders no race has a monopoly. In fact, my anecdotal sense is that white people commit some of the most heinous crimes. Timothy McVeigh. Ted Bundy. John Wayne Gacy.

  10. I think that djrippert pointed out a number of issues. I would add how much of society is supportive of this, rather than supportive of getting out of this situation?

    • Agreed, VN — “symbiotic relationship from hell” is a good summation. Moynihan and Murray at least talked about these problems, these social dysfunctions, frankly and provoked others to do so. Yet look how well such conversations are received in, e.g., Vermont today.

      Jim is daring in the current atmosphere to talk about such things, and to host a forum for others to talk about them. Larry has it right, he and Jim may be on different planets — but they are still talking! Jim comments, “Only a few social scientists and journalists have trod this path. We’ll see where it leads.” Good luck, Jim.

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