Crime time re-revisited: a set of programs focused on reducing crime
Because crime waxes and wanes, discussions about crime and public safety issues are a perennial topic, especially since media and government responses are episodic and tend to not address more systemic and structural elements of the problem.
I wrote a series of pieces on "Crime Time" in 2006, when cities like Philadelphia were experiencing a serious uptick in time. And I wrote about this last December, in Crime time revisited."
We're in that kind of place today, where many cities, including DC, are experiencing an significant uptick in serious crimes, including murder, assaults, and armed robberies.
There is no question that unrest in response to the various police shootings of African-Americans and the subsequent response in various communities has likely increased anger and a greater willingness to act out violently. Baltimore has experienced a massive crime increase in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray, which some call the "Ferguson Effect" ("In Baltimore Arrests are Down and Crime is Way Up," Marginal Revolution blog).
Former police officer and professor Peter Moskos argues that in the aftermath of Freddie Gray, more police officers are required to respond to each call, sapping their resources, preventing proactive policing, and reducing the number of arrests made per officer ("Crime in Baltimore Rises as Support for Police Declines," New York Times).
About two weeks ago, there was a crime summit which brought a bunch of police chiefs to the city to discuss experiences and best practices ("U.S. Police Chiefs Meet to Address Rising Homicide Rates," Time Magazine).
Woodland Terrace public housing project with 201 units in Southeast DC ("Deadly violence has become all too common in one D.C. neighborhood" and "Killing an example of chilling violence in DC's Woodland Terrace," Washington Post).
Mayor Bowser has expressed her empathy with citizening the crime wave. And there was a program ("Reacting To The Spike In Violence In Southeast D.C.") on Monday on the Kojo Nnamdi Show featuring a number of Southeast DC community activists and organizations.
What to do -- long term
1. The first thing I thought about in response to the AHOD event in Woodland Terrace was that DC needs to launch its own version of Los Angeles' Community Safety Partnership, which embeds police officers and implements community programs in various public housing developments in the Watts community.
Apparently, Albany, New York has a similar program, called Neighborhood Engagement Units ("Back on the beat," Metroland).
-- past blog entry, "Los Angeles police department "Community Safety Partnership""
-- Pathway to Change: African Americans and Community Policing in Albany, Center for Law and Justice
The All Hands On Deck response isn't 24/7/365 like the Community Safety Partnership approach.
People could argue that DC's organization of "Police Service Areas" does the same thing as the Albany program, but police officers aren't embedded in high crime areas in the same way that these other programs seem to work. It's more of a reporting relationship for interested citizens, rather than a way to engage police officers in an ongoing, day-to-day manner.
There is no question that most cities need to rethink how they address community safety in high crime areas. The warrior method isn't working.
2. The city and the police department need more focused crime interdiction programs for places with persistent problems. See "Crime prevention through environmental design and repeated burglaries at the Naylor Gardens apartment complex."
3. A big problem is the failure to provide adequate programming for the mentally ill. Many of the people caught up in the criminal justice system have mental health problems. I was surprised to see that Los Angeles is creating a special jail unit to deal specifically with inmates with mental health issues ("LA County to relocate some inmates, build jail to treat the mentally ill," Los Angeles Times.
20 years of cleaning up NYC pissed away," New York Post), is an example of someone with serious mental health issues.
Arresting and incarcerating him doesn't address his underlying problems and won't cure him.
Police officers are put in a terrible position of being the default responders for mental health problems.
4. I have written about this before, but with regard to summer school programming, I think that DC needs to consider:
- Year Round Schooling, so that there aren't such long breaks in the summer
- and/or Enhanced, Enrichmment-Focused Summer School programs -- they have to be great, not just more traditional lecture-based instruction.
5. And create cooperative high school education programs that could include externships and income for high school aged youth. This is complementary to the next recommendation.
6. Besides a bottom to top review and revamp ("Can a troubled summer jobs program give D.C. the results it wants?," "D.C.'s summer job program starts — and the heat is on Bowser" and "D.C.'s Summer Youth Employment Program," Washington Post), the city's Summer Youth Employment Program, especially because many of the participants are post-high school age, could be extended to an all-year program, comparable to the Federal Government's Vista and comparable programs and other job development and workforce readiness programs.
Los Angeles ("Crime falls 40% in neighborhoods with Summer Night Lights program," Los Angeles Times, Greensboro, NC, and Muskegon, Michigan, among other places, have such programs.
From the Muskegon Chronicle article "Summer Evening Recreation Program at Muskegon High School gets young people off the streets":
“It was a lot of fun last year and we expect more this year,” Adkins said of a program that drew on average 400 youth on any given night. “We encourage parents to come with their younger children. This is for anyone in the Muskegon area, not just the city or Muskegon school district.”There are also "midnight basketball leagues."
-- Parks After Dark: Preventing Violence While Promoting Healthy, Active Living report, LA County Department of Parks and Recreation
--The Real Deal:The Evolution of Seattle, Washington’s At-Risk Youth Program
-- "Rethinking Sports-Based Community Crime Prevention: A Preliminary Analysis of the Relationship Between Midnight Basketball and Urban Crime Rates," Journal of Sport and Social Issues
8. Plus, why do outdoor pools start closing in mid-August, shouldn't they stay open through September?
9. There should be improvements with halfway house programs and more general monitoring of ex-offenders, along the lines of programs like those once successful in Boston. See "Straight Outta Boston" from Mother Jones Magazine.
What to do -- short term
I don't know. There are issues with synthetic drugs, gun violence, not enough police officers on the beat generally, and not enough officers working at night, when crimes most typically occur.
Providing long term approaches will reduce crime in a more structural and structured manner compared to the results of short term responses, other than the current cohort of active criminals (for example, "Two men sought in rash of D.C. armed robberies" and "In DC's homicide spike, a new trend: Some involve past violent offenders,"Post--although I don't see how this particular pattern in homicides is "new") being apprehended and imprisoned.
Usually that is what is going on when crime spikes upward. A "new" group of active crime perpetrators commits a bunch of (pattern) crimes, the police recognize the pattern, and eventually the criminals are apprehended, and in response, the crime rate drops.
It's a recurring, and at least to me, common cycle.