Causal relationships are difficult to identify in complex and multi-part initiatives, but New York City’s falling rate of gun violence suggests that recent community initiatives may have helped to sustain previous gains.
Over the last five years the number of police stops and arrests involving Capital Region youths has fallen more than 45 percent, according to state data. It’s a stunning drop — but one without a clear single reason, say law enforcement and juvenile justice system professionals. Several factors are likely in play, including an overall drop in crime in the country, changes in the drug trade, increased use of alternatives to incarceration and changes in youth culture, said Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, tracking trends, and something definitely feels different than it did 20 years ago,” Butts said.
Between 2000 and 2018, the steepest declines in drug arrests were observed among youth ages 10 to 14 (–52%) and young people ages 15 to 17 (–56%). Arrest rates among young adults also fell. Specifically, the drug arrest rate dropped –35 percent for 18-20 year-olds and –15 percent for adults ages 21-to 24.
Based on the latest statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the national violent crime arrest rate declined 38 percent overall between 1988 and 2018, but the steepest declines were observed among youth ages 10 to 14 (–53%) and 15 to 17 (–54%). The arrest rate for 18-20 year-olds dropped 47 percent while the arrest rates for adults ages 21-24 and 25-49 declined 42 percent and 23 percent, respectively.
Such notions, says Jeffrey Butts, the director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, may skew the violence-intervention focus too far into short-term preventive tactics driven by law enforcement.
When someone tells you “what the research says” about how to reduce crime and violence, try to remember they’re describing the research base as it was created by people and organizations with opinions, values, and self-interest.