Shooting incidents reported in each New York City census block group were divided over the population to create yearly rates of shooting incidents. Researchers then ranked all CBGs based on their rates of shooting incidents and identified the 50 CBGs with the highest rates in each year from 2015 to 2021.
. “It reminds me of the 1990s, in the sense that every incident of violence becomes a major news story,” said Jeffrey Butts, director of the research and evaluation center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“The things that cause crime to go up and down are largely societal, structural,” said Jeffrey Butts, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “It’s about employment, poverty rates, drug abuse, types of drug being abused, neighborhood conditions.”
Prevention is different than deterrence, and it uses other tools and resources. It lowers risks and builds assets. Risks are obstacles to safety that often metastasize across individuals and increase harm to entire communities, including substance abuse, antisocial peers, unemployment, and family violence.v
Shootings in New York City remain a serious concern, and the most recent from NYPD data show different areas of the city are experiencing different trends.
“The Brooklyn recovery seems more striking than other boroughs,” Dr. Butts said. “The Brooklyn spike is horrendous when you look at it over time. But the most recent quarter, the data point is back to where it’s been bouncing around for the past 15 years.”
Shooting trends in New York City remain a serious concern, but these quarter-specific, one-year differences declined for three straight quarters.
“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.
In 2021, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) engaged the assistance of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (JohnJayREC) to support several research and data analytic projects associated with a City effort to improve public safety and the effectiveness of the justice system.
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."
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.
In 1993, a peak year for violent crime, police agencies nationwide reported about 13 under-age-18 murder arrests for every 100,000 youth ages 10 to 17. The youth arrest rate for murder dropped 79 percent between 1993 and 2017.
Another explanation could be an affordable housing crisis exacerbated by Nashville's booming economy, said Jeffrey Butts, the director of the Research & Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. This can be particularly true for some neighborhoods. “The social stresses of shared housing and multifamily housing increase the chances that adolescents become frustrated and alienated," Butts said, creating an environment conducive to more crime.