Community Policing Helps Reduce Youth Violence
Harvard Law School directed five case studies of four cities Boston, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco that have made significant efforts to reduce youth violence or reform the juvenile justice system.
The researchers found that:
- Community policing cooperative efforts between neighborhood residents and the police in these cities has proved a successful way to reduce youth violence.
- To combat youth violence most effectively, police departments must combine aggressive policing with deference to communities.
- The eighth case study, of San Francisco, focused on that city's reform of its juvenile justice system and found that politics played a large role in the effort.
- The case studies are taught at Harvard's Law School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and can be purchased by other schools.
- A book on law enforcement and prevention efforts involving the police in Boston, New York, and Chicago, with an ethnographic study of the impact of the Boston programs on the city's youth and parents, has also been completed.
A $50,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) funded the studies. With the addition of two other case studies not funded by RWJF, a total of seven case studies (one of Boston, four of New York, and two of Chicago) focused on violence prevention programs supported by the police in those three cities.
Recent US Federal Bureau of Investigation and census data show remarkable reduction in youth violence in inner cities in the United States during the past few years, following a period about 1985 until about 1992 when youth violence had increased significantly. Both perpetrators and victims were both primarily young, poor, minority, and male.
This grant from RWJF provided funds for Harvard Law School to conduct two case studies in large cities (Boston, Mass., and New York, N.Y.) that have made significant efforts to reduce youth violence. With the help of an additional $20,000 from the law school's own resources, the principal investigator expanded the scope of the project to allow study of four cities: Boston; Chicago, Ill.; New York; and San Francisco, Calif.
While the initial project sought to look broadly at how the cities have managed the set of tasks and responsibilities involved in dealing with youth violence, the large variety of such initiatives prompted the research team to focus on police initiatives and to include on the prevention side as well as the law enforcement side. Because youth violence was found to be less severe in San Francisco, the case study in that city focused instead on reform of the juvenile justice system.
The project funded by RWJF produced five out of the following integrated set of eight case studies:
- A Community Responds: Boston Confronts an Upsurge of Youth Violence highlighted (1) partnerships between community coalitions and the police that helped kids stay out of trouble and provided them with alternatives to such behavior and (2) the strategy pursued by the force's Anti-Gang Violence Unit and the Violence Strike Force. (RWJF also supported creation of a video about youth whose lives were turned around by the Boston Strategy. See Grant Results on ID# 034184.) Funded by RWJF.
- Assertive Policing, Plummeting Crime: The NYPD Takes on Crime in New York City examined an aggressive policing model built around performance measurements developed by Police Commissioner William Bratton under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Funded by RWJF.
- Epilogue: Crime Falls, Doubts Arise, a follow-up to the previous study, noted that while crime in New York continued to fall, criticism of police tactics by New York's minority community rose. Funded by RWJF.
- The East New York Urban Youth Corps and Community Policing: A New Initiative in the "Dead Zone" documented cooperation between the East New York Urban Youth Corps and the police department to reduce crime in one of New York's worst neighborhoods through the Community Security Initiative. Funded without RWJF assistance, it plays an important part in the overall picture of New York policing.
- The Community Security Initiative Gets Underway, a follow-up study on East New York, examined efforts to reduce crime in four hot spots in the neighborhood. Also funded without RWJF assistance.
- Policing Chicago's Public Housing Developments: Operating in a Unique Environment covered a nontraditional group of Chicago Police Department Public Housing Section officers known as the "Slick Boys," who negotiated peace among warring gangs, encouraged youngsters to go straight by using rap songs about the evils of drugs and gangs, set up recreation programs, and provided guidance and positive role models. Funded by RWJF.
- The Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS): Activism and Apathy in Englewood looked at how Chicago reorganized its policing strategy to focus on small geographic areas (beats), created District Advisory Committees for each police district, and held beat meetings to build working relationships between the police and the community. This case, not funded by RWJF, forms a crucial part of the picture of Chicago's policing.
- San Francisco's Juvenile Justice System: Trying to Do Right by Kids Who Do Wrong discussed efforts by three mayors Art Agnos, Frank Jordan, and Willie Brown to improve San Francisco's juvenile justice system, culminating in a plan to create a number of centers and services for troubled youth and respond aggressively to juvenile crime. Funded by RWJF.
The RWJF case studies were written by the case program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University under the guidance of Prof. Philip B. Heymann, the project director. The case studies are also taught at Harvard's Law School. The researchers recently completed a book on law enforcement and prevention efforts involving the police in Boston, New York, and Chicago.
The case studies in Boston, New York, and Chicago produced the following findings.
- Community policing as implemented in Boston, New York, and Chicago is a successful way to reduce youth violence. Community policing cooperative efforts between neighborhood residents and the police which include problem solving, taking priorities from neighborhoods, and pushing police responsibility down to a very low level (ideally, to the officer on the beat) is implemented in various ways, including:
- A perpetrator-oriented focus in Boston. In its initiative for dealing with youth violence, Boston emphasizes stopping violent crime through supportive relations with neighborhoods and aggressive attacks on violence. This has resulted in a dramatic reduction in youth violence. The city was cited as a model for other cities to emulated by the US Department of Justice in its report Youth Violence: One City's Success Story.
- Problem-solving policing in New York. The objective in New York is to create safety, not to make arrests. Police employ a broken-windows policy whereby they arrest people for anything that violates the law and that disturbs others (for example, cleaning windshields at red lights, sleeping on the street, or begging) even for if it is trivial violations because these types of violation crimes keep law-abiding people off the streets and because those who would commit crimes believe the streets belong to them. This effort is backed by a powerful management information system COMPSTAT (short for computerized comparison crime statistics) and a management structure that demanded results in reducing crime.
- A priority-setting focus in Chicago. The police set priorities with neighborhood residents, who provide information and clean up the neighborhood (for example, vacant lots). Chicago also experimented with reaching an accommodation with gangs.
- To most effectively combat youth violence, police departments must combine aggressive policing with deference to communities. New York's policing is effective in stopping crime, but complaints skyrocketed and the police and city government alienated communities. Chicago is very accommodating to communities but has not been very effective in stopping crime. Boston, which combined aggressive policing with deference to communities, has the best record of reducing crime and complaints; the US Department of Justice presented Boston as touted as a model for other cities to emulate in its report Youth Violence: One City's Success Story.
The case studies have been taught to hundreds of students at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Harvard Law School and are available for sale to other schools for classroom use and scholarly research. A book-length manuscript on law enforcement and prevention efforts involving the police in Boston, New York, and Chicago, entitled The New Policing, has been completed. It includes an ethnographic study of the impact of the Boston programs on the city's youth and parents. The project directors state that this manuscript represents the first effort to combine descriptions of theory and practice in each city in a compact manner and will be the first volume that describes the major models of policing that are being used in the United States. It was not yet published as of the date of this report.
AFTER THE GRANT
The project director plans no major new initiatives on youth violence is planned because the problem is receding.
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Case Studies of Cities' Approaches to Reduce Youth Violence
Harvard Law School (Cambridge, MA)
Dates: October 1996 to September 1998
Philip B. Heymann
(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)
Heymann, Philip B. "The New Policing." Fordham Urban Law Journal, 28(2): 407456, 2000. Abstract available online.
Buntin J. Assertive Policing, Plummeting Crime: The NYPD Takes on Crime in New York City. Boston, Mass.: Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 1999.
Buntin J. Epilogue: Crime Falls, Doubts Arise. Boston, Mass.: Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 1999.
Buntin J. The Community Security Initiative Gets Underway. Boston, Mass.: Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 1998.
Buntin J. The East New York Urban Youth Corps and Community Policing: A New Initiative in the "Dead Zone." Boston, Mass.: Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 1998.
Buntin J. A Community Responds: Boston Confronts an Upsurge of Youth Violence. Boston, Mass.: Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 1998.
Rosegrant S. San Francisco's Juvenile Justice System: Trying to Do Right by Kids Who Do Wrong. Boston, Mass.: Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 1998.
Simon H. Policing Chicago's Public Housing Developments: Operating in a Unique Environment. Boston, Mass.: Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 1998.
Simon H. The Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS): Activism and Apathy in Englewood. Boston, Mass.: Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 1998.
Report prepared by: Lori De Milto
Reviewed by: Robert Narus
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Rush L. Russell