Success in the Media

Children killed down 80 percent in Baltimore

Crime in America.Net

Dear readers: It’s rare to discover great news from local criminal agencies. While national crime statistics continue to drop, all you seem to hear from big-city systems are problems.

We all understand that we cannot arrest and incarcerate ourselves out of the crime problem; as necessary as arrests and incarcerations are. But while acknowledging this, there are lots of mayors, governors and criminal justice administrators who believe that arrests and incarcerations of the right people serve public safety more powerfully than other modalities. Arrests and incarcerations are necessary, they feel, because alternatives just aren’t powerful enough to address crime in cities.

Some prevention programs, however, are beginning to demonstrate impact. For example, a review from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy indicates that sending social workers into the homes of children deemed to be at risk had a larger impact than most anti-crime  efforts. See http://crimeinamerica.net/2010/10/13/correctional-programs-reduce-crime-update-report-on-99-recidivism-studies/.

The City of Baltimore may be another significant example of prevention. What’s remarkable is the cooperation of a variety of state and local government agencies coming together to work on a common problem. What’s even more remarkable are the results.

From Erica Green at the Baltimore Sun: “The dropout rate for city students has plummeted this year, along with the rates for juvenile-involved crime and arrests, according to figures provided by the city school system and law enforcement agencies.

 The encouraging development, officials say, is due in large part to close cooperation between the leaders of the city school system, the Police Department and the state juvenile corrections agency. City officials and others are expressing hope that Baltimore may have begun to break a cycle that some call the school-to-prison pipeline.

 Since 2006, the number of children killed in the city has plunged by 80 percent, and the number of juveniles suspected in killings has dropped by about the same percentage.

The numbers come on the heels of the city recently celebrating a historically low dropout rate of 4 percent, and a record 66 percent graduation rate that the Baltimore school system said is driven primarily by achievements of black males.”

See http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-ci-dropout-and-crime-rate-20101113,0,1890250.story.

We’ve long known that truancy and kids not being in school had a direct relationship to violent crime. But with zero tolerance and a perceived need to protect the kids who are trying to get an education, we expelled many and pursued those not there with little enthusiasm (we didn’t want them in school). Getting errant kids back in schools wasn’t a priority. Now it is.

What’s equally important is the recognition that the City of Baltimore has suffered long and hard through a variety of considerable budget cuts. Interagency cooperation and the willingness to reset priorities during tough times lead to this remarkable achievement.

The social problems approach doesn’t have an overwhelmingly effective reputation for cutting crime, thus the reliance on arrests and incarceration. Programs like the ones noted above may give pause and hope for those of us who see crime as negatively permeating every aspect of our society. Maybe, just maybe, Baltimore has shown other cash-strapped cities that a way out is possible without a strict reliance on arrests and more prisons.

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