Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kennedy: 'Call-Ins' Reducing Homicide Rates

America is on track for its lowest murder rate in nearly 40 years, writes Professor David M. Kennedy in the Huffington Post. Kennedy is the Director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Below are excerpts from his article:

There's an important point the year-end media round-ups are missing: there is a method to the growing lack of madness in America's cities. Most of the cities making headlines -- Chicago, down 18 percent, to the lowest level since 1965; New Orleans, down almost 20 percent, to the lowest level since 1971; Baton Rouge, down over 20 percent; Philadelphia, down a quarter, to the lowest level since 1967; New York, down 20 percent, to an absolute historical record low; Oakland, down 29 percent, the single largest reduction in 40 years; Stockton, down 55 percent, the single largest reduction ever -- are using the same basic method to stop the killing. There is something that can be done about the urban homicide that has plagued the nation for generations, these cities are doing it, and it is working.

Indeed, focus is one of the important things these cities have in common. A growing body of criminological evidence shows that serious violence (and much other crime) is concentrated among remarkably small numbers of "hot" people and places. We now know that homicide and gun violence are overwhelmingly concentrated among serious offenders operating in groups: gangs, drug crews, and the like representing under half of one percent of a city's population commit half to three-quarters of all murders. We also know some reliable predictors of risk: individuals who have a history of violence or a close connection with prior victims are far more likely to be involved in violence themselves. Hot groups and people are so hot that when their offending is statistically abstracted, their neighborhoods cease to be dangerous. Their communities aren't dangerous; they are.

In Chicago, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Philadelphia, Oakland, and Stockton -- all cities where homicide, not homicide reduction, has made headlines for years -- a community, social service, and law enforcement partnership identifies group members with extensive criminal histories and engages them in meetings -- "call-ins" -- to demand an end to violence, explain the legal risks they face, and offer them help. Chicago has added "custom notifications" and is using new social network analysis techniques to identify the hottest and most vulnerable people and give them individualized messages about their vulnerability, the help available to them, and their legal risks.

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