Dr. Jeffrey Butts is the lead researcher at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which was commissioned by the city to assess the effectiveness of its anti-violence initiatives. Butts said police intervention is only the first step and societal factors must also be addressed.
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.
"I'm an older white guy. I'm going to stop, I don't feel threatened," said Jeffrey Butts, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "There are people whose rational expectation is that (the stop) puts them in danger. They're going to have different response. It's amazing to me that we haven't confronted that and individual police officers don't think about that. They're just shocked and angered by someone daring to not comply."
Jeffrey Butts interviewed by N.J. Burkett of ABC7 New York on June 10, 2021 about the rise in shooting incidents across New York City.
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.”
Police often say the criminal justice system is a revolving door but Jeffrey Butts of John Jay College of Criminal Justice said his research proves otherwise. "The vast majority of people who are released pretrial do not get arrested again while they are waiting for trial," he said. "About 5%, at most, of people who are arrested and waiting trial and then released get rearrested prior to their trial."
Shootings in New York City grew sharply in 2020 and remained elevated in 2021, but the degree of increase may have been in decline.
Butts cautioned against inferring cause and effect or making substantial policy changes in response to what could turn out to be a temporary variation. The wide range of communities in which increases in homicides occurred indicates the trend has relatively little to do with local policies and conditions.