Recently, a study regarding gun violence was published to see if methods used to address gun violence among ex-fighters in the war torn parts of Africa would translate to urban crime in Chicago. The paper is published here. Importantly, this is a measure that can be used to address gun violence without gun control efforts.
The Cliff’s Notes version of the study are both algorithmic identification and human identified outreach method were used to identify individuals who were most likely to shoot someone or be shot. A combination of cognitive based therapy and jobs were provided as a mitigation strategy. The results were mixed – instance of being shot dropped 18%, arrest for lesser violent crimes rose 13%, and arrests for shootings and homicides dropped 64%. In short, the program seemed to have some success in preventing the participants from shooting someone, but not from being shot or engaging in other lesser crimes.
The study’s results create an opportunity for a more integrated approach to address crime in Harris County. This is an issue Houston City Council, and the candidates this year, should be questioned about future implementation. The program would need to be part of an integrated effort, and not a standalone effort. By way of example I’ll use District J, where I live and work.
Right now District J has both preventative and enforcement measures in place to address crime. Councilman Pollard’s District J Patrol is meant to address quality of life issues with the hope it can stop low level of offenses from escalating, a prevention effort. The program isn’t perfect, and some reported issues the HPD officers will not act upon, but overall it seems to have done some tangible good. At the same time Councilman Pollard and Commissioner Ramsey worked together to address the prostitution problem on Bissonnet, an enforcement effort.
The end result show that crime has trickled down. However, some of this is a reporting issue rather than an actual crime cessation. My office is on the prostitution strip on Bissonnet. The number of prostitutes walking the streets seems to have ticked down. They are still present, but overall the activity seems to be a touch lower. This has been replaced, however, by increasing incidence of gunfire at night.
Before the crackdown I would hear gunshots 1-3 times a year. Even since the crackdown that’s averaged 1-3 times a month. It was more frequent in the immediate timeframe after the crackdown, decreased substantially, and then increased to the 1-3 times a month and seems to have leveled off at that point. One problem has been replaced with another that likely isn’t being reported based on the lack of police sirens heard following the gunshots.
A program like in the study could help to address the crime response to the crackdown. This would be another preventive effort to keep crime from occurring. The Higher Dimension church was invaluable in getting the prostitution crackdown in place, and could be a natural partner to identification of individuals who would benefit from the program – the outreach method.
However, the program only had meaningful results regarding the participants stopping shooting others, not from them being shot. The program would need to be coupled with some effort to identify and apprehend those who were not a part of the program and who were shooting. This could be the flip side of the identification process. Identify those who could be helped by the program, and break that down into those who are likely to participate and those who are not likely to participate. The former should be involved in the program, and the latter noted for enforcement efforts.
City Council probably can’t take advantage of the Code of Criminal Procedure provisions for addressing insufficient bail. (See Crime section.) They can, however, take steps like what’s outlined here to try and reduce crime with the hope that the worst of the worst then are apprehended since the overall burden on law enforcement drops. At the least, individual council members could use their district’s discretionary funds and community partnerships to try and engage in a program of this nature to see what impact it has on crime in the district.