Resolution in Support of Effective Strategies to Support Law Enforcement and Reduce Violent Crime
WHEREAS, the United States is in the midst of a troubling crime wave. 2019 to 2020 saw the single largest year-to-year increase in murders in our nation’s history, a trend that continued into 2021. Many jurisdictions, such as Chicago, New Orleans, Washington DC, and Philadelphia, have seen carjackings double, triple, or even quadruple in just a couple of years. Non-fatal shootings and other aggravated assaults have also dramatically increased in many jurisdictions.
WHEREAS, crime, particularly violent crime, has lasting negative impacts on victims and their families, community safety, and economic progress that more heavily affect lower socioeconomic neighborhoods.
WHEREAS, clearance rates for violent crime have continued to drop in the United States. It is estimated that just 41.2% of reported violent crimes were “cleared” by an arrest in 2021.
WHEREAS, crime, particularly violent crime, is largely concentrated in small areas of a jurisdiction and carried out by a small proportion of the population. For example, a study examining gun violence in Boston from 1980 to 2008 found that more than half of gun violence incidents occurred in areas making up less than 3% of the city. A 2021 study estimated that 500 identifiable people in Washington, DC are responsible for 60-70% of all gun violence in the city.
WHEREAS, because violent crime is so concentrated in terms of location and social networks, cities and towns should focus resources and services on specific individuals and areas to reduce violent crime.
WHEREAS, there are proven solutions to curbing violent crime that can increase public safety and improve relationships between law enforcement and their communities, while limiting unnecessary interactions between police and the public.
WHEREAS, policing strategies such as “focused deterrence” have been shown to dramatically decrease violent crime when properly implemented. Focused deterrence requires collaboration between law enforcement and community leaders/community programs to identify individuals at high-risk of being involved in violent crime, provide those who cease their criminal activity with services and support, and crack down on those who continue to engage in violent criminal behavior.
WHEREAS, Boston implemented a focused deterrence program called “Operation Ceasefire” in the mid-1990s to reduce youth homicides and youth firearm violence. Thanks to the program, the city saw monthly youth homicides drop by 63%, monthly citywide “shots-fired” calls to 911 drop by 25%, and monthly gun incidents in target districts drop by 25%. These reductions were significantly larger than those experienced by other cities during the same period. And sustained investment in these strategies has allowed Boston to avoid surges in violent crime during this most recent crime wave. In 2021, Boston had 40 homicides. In contrast, Baltimore, a city with 100,000 fewer people, had 337 homicides.
WHEREAS, in 2021, Dallas implemented a focused deterrence strategy similar to Boston. That same year, Dallas decreased its homicide rate by 13% from 2020. Arrests went down 11% as well, demonstrating that focusing on the highest-risk individuals, rather than casting a wide net, is a more effective strategy for reducing crime.
WHEREAS, reducing “blight” in cities is another effective method to reduce violent crime without causing it to “spill over” to other areas. Strategies that have proven successful include increasing street lighting, “cleaning and greening” vacant and dilapidated lots, enforcing reasonable parking restrictions, and properly enforcing apartment codes in high-crime areas.
WHEREAS, calls to “defund the police” are misguided and counterproductive. Study after study shows that more officers, particularly when focused in high-crime areas, decrease crime. Additionally, better trained and educated officers are less likely to use force and more likely to implement effective policing practices. Reducing investment in better quality police and better policing strategies will only negatively impact public safety at a time when police departments are already experiencing record-high vacancies.
WHEREAS, police budgets across the country rely significantly on fines, fees, and forfeitures. This practice warps the core functions of police, causes tension between officers and the communities they serve, and negatively impacts public safety. Studies show that police departments that collect higher shares of revenue from fines and fees solve crimes at lower rates.
WHEREAS, police spend only a small fraction of time focusing on violent crime while most of their time is dedicated to non-criminal calls and traffic-related incidents.
WHEREAS, law enforcement is not provided with alternative solutions for handling those suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues. Co-responder models, for example, team law enforcement with substance abuse and mental health experts. This system allows police to focus more time on violent crime while community organizations help those in need of more specialized assistance.
WHEREAS, many jurisdictions have categorically refused to prosecute certain “quality of life” offenses, such as shoplifting. While lengthy incarceration is not the appropriate remedy in most of these cases, ignoring large categories of crime undermines the rule of law, eliminates opportunities to address the root causes of criminal behavior, and hinders economic mobility for neighborhoods and their residents.
WHEREAS, focusing resources on increasing incarceration as a crime-reducing strategy is less effective than the other strategies mentioned above. High-risk offenders certainly need to be held accountable and incapacitated for the sake of public safety. But evidence shows that treatment, alternatives to incarceration, and other evidence-based programs can lower prison and jail populations while also effectively reducing crime.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, federal, state, and local policymakers should implement strategies such as focused deterrence and blight reduction to effectively prevent and reduce violent crime.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, policymakers should dismiss calls to “defund the police.” Instead, they should appropriate resources to fill current officer vacancies, incentivize quality recruits to join law enforcement, encourage high-quality officers to remain on the force, and invest in strategies and training shown to reduce crime and improve the quality of policing.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, policymakers should stop forcing law enforcement to fund significant percentages of their budgets through fines, fees, and forfeitures and should instead fund them through a consistent and transparent budgetary process.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, policymakers should provide law enforcement with more tools to manage individuals who are dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues in order to more effectively treat underlying reasons for criminal behavior.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, federal, state, and local policymakers should continue to implement evidence-based reforms that reduce prison populations, decrease recidivism, focus policework on high-risk offenders, and expand rehabilitative programming.