The public.safety.evidence initiative at John Jay College works with organizations and communities pursuing innovative strategies to prevent violence, especially strategies inspired by public health concepts and approaches. Despite 20 years of declining crime in the United States, the toll of serious violence — especially gun violence — continues to harm communities and destroy lives. Public officials and community leaders struggle to identify effective responses.
As with many crime problems, the most popular solutions do not always lead to effective and sustainable policies. The most popular approaches for preventing violence rely on deterrence and suppression.
When implemented correctly, intensive enforcement efforts can be very effective — at least in the short run. The strategy known as focused deterrence, for example, has been shown to generate immediate improvements in public safety. Such strategies, however, are not sustainable in the long run unless they are followed by deeper, social change.
Real and lasting progress in the fight against violence may require changing the social norms and attitudes that perpetuate violence. In addition, communities need support to develop the preventive resources that are required to stop young people from being drawn into the culture of violence. This is often referred to as the public health approach.
Research shows that an effective public health approach to preventing violence could be a valuable complement to law enforcement strategies. It can be difficult, however, to describe exactly what a public health approach is and what it is not.
Public health approaches to violence prevention must be designed intentionally and monitored carefully or they may become indistinguishable from a diffuse social services system.
The public.safety.evidence partnership works with organizations and communities in pursuit of effective violence prevention and reduction strategies by documenting intervention models, designing and implementing data collection methods, and conducting evaluations.
Researchers in the partnership are currently collaborating on projects with several funding partners, including the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the New York City Council.