Jeffrey Butts (John Jay College) and Hawk Newsome (Black Lives Matter, NYC) interviewed about recent violent crime trends in New York City and changes in prosecution policy
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.
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.
Arnold Ventures asked the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice to review and summarize the research evidence for policies and programs that reduce community violence without relying on police.
"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."
[Cure Violence workers] “try to stop the cycle of retaliation, and because they are not seen as an extension of law enforcement, the people most likely to be walking around with handguns in their pocket will talk to them and will allow them to settle a dispute before it turns violent,” said Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
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.
Those supportive of reform may be quick to reverse themselves out of fear of being cast as soft on crime, so new initiatives need to be protected with solid evidence. If a city wanted to radically reduce expenditures on policing, Butts said, “I would totally back it, but I would be terrified we would squander all the good energy by not being fully prepared.”
Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said that in some ways, law enforcement never has been best equipped for crunching the numbers. Go to a police department and ask to be taken to the unit that does the crime reporting. Sometimes, it’s civilians with advanced degrees and computers, he said. “Other places, you walk in and it’s full of uniforms,” he said, pointing out that some departments view crime reporting as a desk job for officers who no longer want to work patrol. At a department such as the New York City Police Department, there are civilian research analysts with doctorates.
“We don’t divulge matters that we work hard on to the police, and the police know that about us,” Mitchell said. “We're not sharing information that may be helpful in some sort of investigation. That's not or role." That code of silence lead to the demise of a Cure Violence group in Chicago, according to Jeffrey Butts, director of the research and evaluation center at John Jay College. "The precinct can feel aggrieved to find out this whole episode of violence that just happened was known, that people knew that it was about to happen and no one told the police,” Butts said.
Violent crime arrests involving under-18 youth dropped considerably since 2008. The violent youth arrest rate peaked in 1994, before falling through 2004. Violent arrests began to grow after 2004, however, reaching a rate of nearly 300 per 100,000 10-17 year-olds between 2006 and 2008. Between 2008 and 2011, the violent youth arrest rate fell sharply once again, plunging from approximately 300 to 200 arrests per 100,000 youth. In 2011, the violent crime arrest rate was 30 percent lower than it had been just three years earlier in 2008.
In the United States, the increase in consumption of crack after 1984 occurred along with a noticeable increase in violent crime in urban centers as New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Philadelphia, Baltimore, San Francisco, Boston and Seattle. This experience generates a certain concern in the American media: will the exportation of the phenomenon to the biggest Latin American economy, three decades later, increase the risks of security for tourists attending the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics?
Researchers investigated the operations of a pre-court diversion program that provides services and supports to “station adjusted” (i.e., informally handled) youthful offenders after they have come into contact with the Chicago Police Department but before they have been formally arrested and referred to the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department. The purpose of the study was to determine the suitability of the program for evaluation and to work with staff to enact any procedural modifications that may be needed to facilitate future evaluation activities.