“Sadly, I’ve dedicated my life to using facts and data to influence crime policy. I don’t think we’re any better at it than we were 30 years ago,” Butts said. He has seen both Democrats and Republicans try to use crime stats to scare voters. It’s hard to stop them because “politics was way out ahead of information and the facts.”
Progressive-minded criminologists like Roman or Butts are boosters of community antiviolence intervention programs such as the Cure Violence model, in which more mature people from the neighborhood work as “violence interrupters” and seek to mediate disputes or defuse tensions before they get out of hand.
"We were already in a weakened condition when the pandemic hit -- class divisions, overt racism, partisanship, a really poor social support infrastructure -- so if you think about the effect of the pandemic on an 'epidemic' of shootings -- it's like the immune system of the United States was already suppressed," Jeffrey Butts, director of the research and evaluation center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told ABC News.
Jeffrey Butts interviewed by Andrea Linares about violent crime surges around the U.S. as President Biden unveils his plan to reduce nationwide violence.
Experts caution that while law enforcement is a vital part of public safety, police should be one part in a larger package of solutions. There are well-tested methods that decrease violence, but implementing them at scale will require patience, nuance, and a willingness to think past political narratives.
"Researchers can at least eliminate possible explanations. So, you can look at data and test hypotheses. One hypothesis that has been around (you alluded to it) is that it’s somehow related to Defunding the Police. So, there have been researchers who have looked at police budgets, and changes from year to year... and there’s really no relationship there.”
Shootings in New York City grew sharply in 2020 and remained elevated in 2021, but the degree of increase may have been in decline.
Jeffrey Butts, the director of the Research & Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says the pandemic has exacerbated societal shortcomings that existed well before the health crisis.
"It’s where the story begins and where our attitudes begin in terms of how we perceive law enforcement," said Jeffrey Butts, a research professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "If you’re pulled over all the time, and you think other people are behaving the same way you are, but they’re pulling you over, you immediately start thinking that police are biased, which means government is biased, which causes you to doubt the whole enterprise of democracy and government. So, it’s really serious."