Strong neighborhood ties can help reduce gun violence

The bonds that tie a neighborhood together can help shield community members from gun violence, according to new findings by Yale School of Medicine researchers in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program (RWJF CSP).

“Police and government response to the problem has focused on the victim or the criminal. Our study focuses on empowering communities to combat the effects of living with chronic and persistent gun violence.”

“Our study is a community-based and community-driven intervention to prevent and reduce the negative effects of gun violence in the communities affected by high rates of gun violence by strengthening social ties, bonds, resilience, or in other words, by ‘putting neighbor back in hood,'” said Ann Greene, community research liaison for the RWJF CSP at Yale.

Preliminary findings show that social cohesion, or the strength of bonds between neighbors, is inversely associated with exposure to gun violence, and that a multi-sector approach that includes community members is required to address and prevent gun violence.

via Strong neighborhood ties can help reduce gun violence — ScienceDaily.

Violent Offenders Given Choice: Accept Help or Face the Law

Twenty-two repeat violent offenders have agreed to appear before a gathering of community leaders, law enforcement officials, friends and family members for an opportunity to either leave behind a life of crime or suffer severe consequences.

The Violent Crime Task Force, a partnership between the community and law enforcement, will hold its next “call-in” at 5:30 pm Thursday, November 13 at the Public Safety Training Facility, 1510 N. Church St.

The purpose of the call-in is to let past offenders know the community will not tolerate future violence and help is available if they choose to change their lives.

The call-in works like this:
• The NC Department of Public Safety’s Division of Adult Corrections and Juvenile Justice sends letters of invitation to people who are at least 18 years of age, have been convicted of at least one violent felony offense, and have been arrested at least 10 times.
• Community representatives in attendance stress to offenders that violence and crime will no longer be tolerated and that they are united to make their neighborhoods safer.
• Law enforcement representatives inform participants that continued criminal behavior will be prosecuted swiftly and to the fullest extent of the law.
• Family members hear the messages from law enforcement and community members.
• Community representatives and other officials provide information on available resources, such as educational opportunities, jobs, etc., and hear the needs of the participants so they can better provide those resources.

The notification/call-in is part of a six-step plan to reduce violent crime in Greensboro.
1. Identify repeat, violent and group offenders.
2. Vigorously prosecute those who are involved in violent or serious criminal behavior in state and federal Court.
3. Notify those identified that it is time to stop the violence.
4. Assist those who want to change their lifestyle.
5. Aggressively respond to further acts of violence (neighborhood responses).
6. Evaluate and repeat the process, making changes as necessary.

Present at the call-in will be Lacy Colon, a re-entry specialist with the Welfare Reform Liaison Project, a nonprofit organization that offers employment training to offenders and other students. A former inmate himself, Colon inspires call-in participants to accept that changing their lifestyle is both possible and rewarding.

The first Violent Crimes Task Force call-in was held in February 2000. This week’s meeting will be the 54 call-in. The multi-agency task force has sent its messages of no tolerance and support to 897 violent offenders since its inception. Approximately 86 percent of those who appeared before the group did not commit another prohibited violent offense.

The danger of militarized policing

American policing has become unnecessarily and dangerously militarized, in large part through federal programs that have armed state and local law enforcement agencies with the weapons and tactics of war with almost no public discussion or oversight.

swatSWAT, or Special Weapons and Tactics, teams came into prominence during the 1960s and 1970s to provide rapid response to situations mostly involving an active shooter, hostage, or barricade. But over time, the report found, the primary use of SWAT has changed. Of the hundreds of SWAT deployments the ACLU studied, only seven percent were for an active shooter, hostage or barricade situation, while the vast majority, almost 80 percent, were instead for the purpose of executing a search warrant, most commonly in drug investigations.

The job of law enforcement officers is inherently dangerous, but when police use military style weapons and tactics to make routine arrests without so much as a knock at a door, they more often than not are the ones introducing violence into an otherwise nonviolent situation. Neighborhoods are not war zones, and officers should not be treating the residents they are sworn to serve and protect as wartime enemies.

via The danger of militarized policing | NC Policy Watch.

Law enforcement and the “dangerous person”

Most police officers have frequent contact with people with mental illness, but have minimal training in recognizing the symptoms and assessing when they should be taken to a clinic or emergency room for further evaluation. Perhaps the most useful intervention … is to provide police officers with some good, basic mental health knowledge.

When guns are present, officers might use de-escalation skills to temporarily remove weapons from individuals at-risk of violence or suicide.  If one happens to be in a state such as Indiana that has a preemptive “dangerous person” gun seizure law, police can remove firearms without a warrant, pending a judicial hearing, even if the person with mental illness is not imminently dangerous at the time and wouldn’t meet criteria for involuntary commitment.

We also might examine the minimum age at which people can easily purchase guns. FBI data indicate that 45 percent of identified murderers are younger than age 25.  Many young adults are experiencing (often for the first time) serious mental health or social difficulties, and thus pose special risks to themselves and others. Rental car companies apply extra scrutiny to drivers under the age of 25. Perhaps there’s a lesson there for gun policy.

via Why law enforcement missed Elliot Rodger’s warnings signs – The Washington Post.

U.S. should significantly reduce rate of incarceration, says new report

Given the minimal impact of long prison sentences on crime prevention and the negative social consequences and burdensome financial costs of U.S. incarceration rates, which have more than quadrupled in the last four decades, the nation should revise current criminal justice policies to significantly reduce imprisonment rates, says a new report from the National Research Council.

A comprehensive review of data led the committee that wrote the report to conclude that the costs of the current rate of incarceration outweigh the benefits. The committee recommended that federal and state policymakers re-examine policies requiring mandatory and long sentences, as well as take steps to improve prison conditions and to reduce unnecessary harm to the families and communities of those incarcerated.

One major consequence of high rates of incarceration is their considerable fiscal burden on society, the report says. Allocations for corrections have outpaced budget increases for nearly all other key government services, including education, transportation, and public assistance. State spending on corrections is the third highest category of general fund expenditures in most states today, ranked only behind Medicaid and education.

via U.S. should significantly reduce rate of incarceration, says new report — ScienceDaily.