Most candidates who deal with crime don’t have much power to solve it
After that decision was ruled out, the Council for Criminal Justice published a report earlier this year on tangible actions that could reduce violence now, all aimed at local officials. A central tactic involves identifying the small group of residents and places that cause most of the violence, a pattern that occurs in cities. Officials can then target those areas using police resources, outreach workers, city programs and community partnerships.
“The strongest evidence is about focusing on concentrations,” Mr. Stephens said, including crimes that victimize small concentrations of people. “What you’re trying to do is tailor your response to your understanding of what’s contributing to the problem.”
This could mean changing traffic patterns on certain streets or an offer behavioral therapy programs certain residents. That level of specificity isn’t something you’d expect a senator or governor to know much about: this intersection, this family, this apartment with an unsecured door.
Local officials, on the other hand, oversee many levers that voters might not think of as part of crime policy — whether it’s street lights, public schools, summer job programs, recreation departments or housing programs. And they have the greatest impact on other types of disorder, such as litter, graffiti and vacant properties, which can shape voters’ sense of unease linked to their fears of crime.
Those other tools are “extremely important,” said Art Acevedo, a former police chief in Houston, Austin and Miami. He offered pre-K education as an example, stating more likely that students who eventually drop out will go to prison.
Mr. Acevedo lamented national politicians who parachute into communities after mass shootings, offer prayers and pass no laws, while local police and elected officials confront those families and manage the daily violence.
“When it comes to actually being closest to it, and actually focusing on good policy — not good policy — it’s those local officials,” he said.
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