NIJ Audio Transcript: Homicide in the U.S. — Plenary Panel from the 2009 NIJ Conference
Part 1: Kristina Rose, Acting Director, National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.
Welcome to NIJ's Annual Conference. And to those of you who have come from out of town, welcome to our beautiful city, Washington, D.C.
I know that most of you know who NIJ is. We are the research, evaluation and development arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. But many of you may not know who I am. My name is Kristina Rose, and I'm the Acting Director of the National Institute of Justice and was designated as such on January 20th of this year. I never in a million years thought I would be lucky enough to be serving in this capacity during such an important time in our country's history and such an historic point in the Department of Justice.
Many, many, many years ago, my mother gave me my first Nancy Drew detective book.
And by the time I finished that first chapter, I was hooked. I knew I wanted to work in criminal justice. And little did I know that decades later I would be standing at this podium today welcoming you to NIJ's Annual Conference as NIJ's Acting Director. Well, let me just tell you, I am most honored and humbled.
This is such an exciting time to be working at NIJ. We have a President, we have an Attorney General, and we have an Acting Assistant Attorney General who all believe strongly in science and in its role to shape criminal justice policy and practice. Today we are lucky enough to be able to hear directly from Attorney General Eric Holder and Acting Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson. And their presence here today is a wonderful testament to their strong commitment to the work that all of you do and to the renewed emphasis on research at the Department of Justice.
But before we get started, I want to take a few minutes to give you kind of a big picture of what's in store for you this week — what my Communications Division people call the 40,000.foot view. And let me start by making a few statements about what NIJ stands for and what we believe in.
NIJ believes that research and evaluation make a difference in the safety and well-being of individuals and communities. It is this conviction that has sustained NIJ for over 40 years, and keeps us working hard to produce good research about what works in crime and justice.
NIJ believes that government-funded research must be awarded through open and fair competition and through rigorous peer review. This has always been a cornerstone of our agency, and it remains so today.
NIJ believes that our research agenda must be driven by real-world issues. We rely heavily on the input of practitioners and policymakers like yourselves. NIJ believes that the best policies and programs are those that are based on scientific evidence. We believe in evidence-based programs for criminal justice.
"Evidence-based programs," "evidence-based policies" — these phrases can be so overused, and at times they lose their meaning. So, let me tell you what NIJ means by evidence-based programs and policies. Criminal justice programs are evidence-based when science is the central foundation of what a policy, a program or a practice attempts to do. But let me give you a few examples.
Evidence has shown that having a sexual assault nurse examiner, or a SANE, collect evidence in sexual assault cases not only increases the reporting of sexual assault, it increases the prosecution of those cases. Evidence has shown that policing that is targeted to specific crime problems in specific places can effectively prevent crime without displacing it to somewhere else. Evidence has shown that firearms violence among young men can be prevented using research-driven approaches. And you will hear about some of these approaches at this conference.
It's studies like these that are crucial to making our communities safer. And how do we do that? We use science, social science, technological science and, of course, forensic science. Improving the forensic sciences is one of our top priorities at NIJ.
When we think of forensics, we most often think of DNA. But we shouldn't forget that there are many forensics beyond DNA. And of course, the recent report published by the National Academy of Sciences talks about our nation's need to improve the reliability of non.DNA forensic science. And that's one reason I'm very excited to tell you about a new solicitation that NIJ recently issued to improve our understanding of the accuracy, the reliability and the measurement validity of forensic science.
And what do we hope to get from this research? Well, many things, including the reliability of firearms and tool mark identification, fire debris analysis and arson scene investigation, fingerprint evidence, blood pattern analysis, digital evidence. But one thing in particular that we want to examine is the potential for human error in these non.DNA analyses.
Another of our top priorities is building and improving research-practitioner relationships. And we currently have an open solicitation, which is just one piece of a long-term strategy geared toward that goal.
And in this solicitation, NIJ is looking for applicants who are interested in being what we call a "junior faculty grant program." In this program, we pair senior faculty members with a new, or junior, faculty member to conduct a research project within a practice-based organization, like a law enforcement agency or a corrections agency. The junior faculty member will be mentored by the senior faculty member, who will already have a solid relationship with that law enforcement agency or corrections agency or a court.
Our goal is to infuse researchers with the thinking of practitioners, as well as inform practitioner agencies through the thinking and approaches of research and, most importantly, to pass these connections on to the next generation of criminologists. Now, I wish I could take credit for this myself. But this, as do many of some of our best ideas, come from the field.
In the time I have left, which is not long here, I want to share with you a few examples of why criminal justice research matters. What do we know today because of criminal justice research that we didn't know before?
We know that research has helped prosecutors show juries how accidental — "accidental" — bruises in the elderly may actually be bruises by an abusive family member or a caregiver. We know that therapeutic, structured drug treatment programs can reduce recidivism, through community corrections, drug court supervision or when people re-enter the community following imprisonment. We know that collecting DNA in burglary cases results in twice the number of suspect IDs, arrests and prosecutions as collecting only fingerprint evidence.
We know that gang violence can be prevented and that kids who use guns to solve differences can be led down a path that avoids violence. We know that conducted energy devices, like Tasers, while not without risk, can be a safe and effective tool when deployed effectively. And we know that the use of advanced information and geospatial tools and technologies can help law enforcement agencies to better target their scarce resources as they fight crime every day.
And over the next few days, you'll have an opportunity to hear all about the research I've mentioned. People have come from all over this country, and the world, to tell you how research is making a critical difference in our lives every day. I implore you to take advantage of every minute.
Now conferences like these don't happen without the assistance of some very, very talented individuals. First, I would like to thank the people at Marriott for their usual outstanding hospitality and support.
And I want to thank Maria Young, from Palladian Partners, whose cool and calm approach to conference planning kept us all sane and focused.
And I want to thank the fearless NIJ conference team, headed by Jolene Hernon, who is our communications chief. Jolene, Melissa Marmer Cohen, Yolanda Curtis and Lois Tully, thank you. Thank you for your energy, your enthusiasm and for helping to make this conference all it can be.
And finally, I want to thank all of the NIJ staff for putting together three days' worth of exciting and thought-provoking panels and doing it with such passion and commitment. You are extraordinary individuals, and I am so proud to work with you each and every day.
Now I would like to introduce a very special person. Many of you will remember Laurie Robinson from her earlier appointment as our Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs under Janet Reno during the Clinton administration. We in OJP are delighted that Laurie has returned.
She spent the last five years at the University of Pennsylvania as the director of the master's program in criminal justice. She has also served as a distinguished senior scholar in the university's Jerry Lee Center of Criminology and is the executive director of its Forum on Crime and Justice.
Anyone who knows Laurie knows of her fierce commitment and passion for the work of state and local crime fighters, like those of you in this room. She is a great champion for the work of NIJ and for the importance of research and program evaluation. We are so fortunate to have her back with us again to lead OJP. And we are thrilled that she is here to open this conference.
I am one of those lucky people that can say she is not only my boss, but she is a mentor and a friend.
Please welcome our Acting Assistant Attorney General, Laurie Robinson.
Part 2: Laurie O. Robinson, Acting Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.
Thank you. Thank you very much, Kris. Good morning. And it's wonderful to see all of you here.
It does feel kind of familiar being back. And first thing, I want to thank Kris Rose for her leadership at NIJ over these recent months. I've known Kris for many years, back to the time I was at OJP in the 1990s. And I think we're very fortunate to have Kris at the helm at the institute during this transition period. It's not an easy role to step into these acting positions. But Kris has done it with attention to NIJ's longstanding mission, and she's done it with spirit and with grace.
Thank you, Kristina Rose.
Robinson: And I also want to acknowledge the very wonderful and talented staff at NIJ. This is a group of people who are not only very bright and competent but also committed to the integrity of our research function.
Eric Holder's Department of Justice recognizes that we are blessed to have such a fine staff of career employees at the National Institute of Justice. And I'd like to ask all of the staff of NIJ to now stand so we can recognize them.
Robinson: Now, I mentioned the integrity of research. And before we start our first panel, I'd like to take just a few minutes to underscore how important this is to this Department of Justice and this administration. Four days after I arrived at OJP in January, I met with the entire OJP staff in what we call the "ballroom," our conference room on the third floor. And I spelled out 10 goals for the agency — 10 goals for what I assumed was going to be a short stay at OJP, of what I saw were things that I could do to help the incoming Attorney General.
One of those 10 goals was to restore the integrity and respect for the science at the Office of Justice Programs. It's clear to me that among OJP's most important roles is the work of the National Institute of Justice. That includes support for basic criminal justice research. It's critical that we understand on a fundamental level causes and correlates of criminal behavior. And it's also important that we understand and help practitioners and policymakers know and understand the latest science and how to then apply that science to their work.
When Eric Holder delivered a recent commencement address at Penn, he said, "Scientific research is much more than a mere collection of facts to be gathered, noted and filed. It is a driver of progress."
And I agree with that. This commitment to science is shared throughout this administration. As I'm sure you know, it was so important that President Obama found a place to talk about that in his inaugural address. And he continues to emphasize his commitment to science.
So, I think it's imperative that all of us in the criminal and juvenile justice field take advantage of this opportunity; it's really a great opportunity. And recent history has shown that, sadly, the value of science has not always been appreciated throughout government, including in our own Department of Justice. A very key part of my agenda, therefore, is to return greater independence to our science agencies, to the National Institute of Justice and to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The President has underscored that scientific research has too often been politicized to advance ideological agendas. I think the way to ensure that doesn't happen is to let our research and statistical agencies do their jobs and report their findings. I think it's pretty straightforward.
In our case, I personally have made it a top priority, and I did as soon as I arrived in January, to clarify the signing authority of the NIJ and BJS directors on grants. They need the final say about what programs to fund. It means allowing them to issue their own publications and make the decisions on timing. Political expediency cannot be a metric for publishing research.
And we also have to go down in the weeds here. It means giving them control of distribution. NIJ and BJS should decide who gets their publications and where that information distribution goes.
I can assure you we're all on the same page at OJP right now. But I think it's imperative that protections are put in place so that we can protect for the future as well.
We also need to ensure we have adequate dollars to fund research and statistics. So, the president's budget for fiscal year 2010 would allow for 1 percent of OJP's formula funds to be put toward research and statistical purposes. That's a very healthy first step toward ensuring we have the necessary appropriations in place in this area.
I've also launched a series of internal working groups at OJP to figure out how we get information out to the field about evidence-based approaches, what Kris spoke about. In many cases, we already have the information about what works. Our job is to facilitate the horizontal transfer of that information to the field — to advance programs and practices that are already supported by evidence of effectiveness.
Through these working groups, which are headed by Dr. Phelan Wyrick, from my office, we're coming up with a strategy for strengthening the evidence-based nature of all of OJP's programs. And here I want the discussion on research to infiltrate throughout OJP, not to have that discussion just in NIJ. And I can assure you that as long as Eric Holder is attorney general, and as long as I'm at OJP, science will once again be respected at the United States Department of Justice.
Robinson: One of the critical issues we're dealing with now in criminal justice, as all of you know, is the rise in violent crime, and, in particular, homicide in some cities. We know from the latest UCR data that the overall violent crime rate is on the decline. But some areas are, nonetheless, seeing an increase in homicide.
We've also heard with disturbing frequency about cases of familicide, where men have murdered their entire families. There is some eagerness on the part of the media to connect this to the downturn in the economy. We had a very interesting panel recently at Main Justice about what could be causing or contributing to this phenomenon. And we know it's a very complex issue.
I'm very pleased today that we have one of our nation's leading criminal justice researchers and two outstanding innovators to talk about promising approaches to dealing with these issues. And I'd like to ask them if they can come up and now join us on stage.
Our first speaker is going to be James Alan Fox. Professor Fox is the Lipman Family professor of criminal justice and former dean at Northeastern University in Boston. And I have to say, a Ph.D. graduate of the criminology program at Penn under Marvin Wolfgang. He's written 16 books, including his most recent, The Will to Kill: Making Sense of Senseless Murder.
You come up with the most wonderful titles.
And Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder. He's also published numerous journal and magazine articles and is a media go.to person on issues of interpersonal violence.
Our second panelist is Gary Slutkin. Dr. Slutkin is a renowned physician, specializing in infectious disease control and reversing epidemics. He's also a professor of epidemiology and international health at the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Public Health, and a senior advisor to the World Health Organization.
Since 1995 he's worked to develop and implement an innovative strategy to reduce violence through the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention, which was cited by President Obama in his campaign. I remember very vividly meeting Gary back in 1994, in the old OJP Building on Indiana Avenue. And we'd never met again until very recently. But I was so impressed with him at that time that I've always followed his research and his works in the intervening years.
Our third panelist is Colonel Kim Ward. Colonel Ward is head of the Baltimore County Police Department's Operation Bureau since 2000. She has been with the department since 1981 and has held many assignments in its precincts, Services Bureau and in the Intelligence and Internal Affairs Units. She has a master's degree in applied behavioral science from Johns Hopkins, and she is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
We're thrilled to have the three of them here today. And Professor Fox, we're gonna to start with you.
Part 3: James Alan Fox, Lipman Family Professor of Criminal Justice and Professor of Law, Policy and Society, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
Thank you, Laurie. Let me get this computer open. It's not my machine. So, hopefully, I can ... Is this mike working still? I'm afraid all the $1 coins I got from the metro have short-circuited the wireless.
Fox: It's nice to see you, Laurie. It reminds me of the years during General Reno's administration that we worked together and, and helped bring in research and evidence-based research back to the Attorney General.
And Kris Rose, I will tell you that she was a graduate student of mine many years ago. I won't say when, 'cause I think that's impolite.
Fox: But I remember, though, that her second day in our graduate program was the day my 25-year.old son was born. But I won't tell you when she was there.
Fox: And I taught her research methods, so I'm, so I'm so glad to hear you talk about evidence-based research.
So, um ...
I have to get this up here now, right? 'K. Great, it works. I'm here to talk for a few minutes, basically, about a report that I released back in December on the surge of homicide involving young black males with guns. This report, by the way, was not funded by NIJ, unfortunately. And, and I know there are some NIJ people here who could certainly correct the fact that this wasn't.
Fox: It was funded — actually, supported — it was supported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics — a series of grants from them, as well as the American Statistical Association's Committee on Law and Justice. Of course, the opinions are mine.
I released this report because I had been tracking for several years the rise in homicide among young black males. You know, we had been hearing so much wonderful news about crime rates going down, homicide down. Of course, the 2007 UCR talked about a 1.3 percent decline in homicide. And just the other day, June 1st, we heard from the preliminary numbers for 2008 that homicide's down 4.4 percent, although it's preliminary. I know Washington, D.C.'s not in there, a few other cities; so we will see when the finals come out.
And the impression you get, of course, is that things are wonderful. We're a 30-year low in homicide, and homicide continues to decline. And we hear in the press, when they analyze all the numbers, that the violence is down across the board.
Now, of course, the "board" that the FBI uses, and the UCR, is broken down by regions of the country and different population groups. Their "board" does not include demography. And when you look very closely, in terms of breakdowns by age, race and gender, you see a very different picture. And it's not down across the board.
Essentially what we have is a divergent tale of two communities. We have a declining rate, homicide rate, continuing to decline, among the prosperous in their safe communities. And we have a surging rate of violence, particularly homicide, particularly gun homicide, among the poor. And the important part about this is that every time we hear the great news about crime rates going down, it's just not consistent with the experiences of some Americans who are living and perhaps even dying in neighborhoods of Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Detroit and elsewhere. Those experiences are not represented in these data because, of course, they are overshadowed in the aggregate.
Now, what we essentially see is that when you look closely among young black males, we indeed have more at-risk youngsters with guns in their hands and gangs in their plans. And in fact, over the five-year period of time, from 2002 to 2007, the number of murders by and against young black males has surged. Forty-three percent increase in the number of victims, black male teenagers. And a 47 percent increase in perpetrators. Of course, the reason those are so similar is that typically young black males are killing other young black males.
And I will focus on homicide, not just because it's the name of this panel, but because we have the best data on homicide, in terms of detail. But it probably is a much larger, tip of a much larger iceberg of gun violence, not just homicide.
Now, the Attorney General, last February, as you know, was criticized for, during Black History Month, talking about us as a nation of cowards that were afraid to discuss very delicate issues of race; and I agree with him. And actually, my own experience with this report is that when I was about to release this report about the surge in homicide of young black males, many of my colleagues said, "Don't do it. They'll call you a racist. Just don't do it."
And I did in fact pre-release this report to the press about 10 days in advance of the embargo date, and they did their usual checking of other criminologists and what do they think about it. And several reporters came back to me and said, "You know, we talked to lots of criminologists who said they know this is true, but they will not go on the record and talk about the surge in homicide among young black males. They just don't want to do that."
We're willing to talk about race and sentencing, race and convictions, race and incarceration, race and car stops; but we're not so willing to talk about race and violence rates. Some people, perhaps, they're afraid of being misquoted or taken out of context or the whole problem of sound bites. But it's something that we need to address and not overlook.
And what's interesting is when the report finally did come out, the most positive response I did receive was from the black community, not just the press, although that was quite interesting. You know, I'm a white guy, as you can see. And no one confused me with the other Jamie Foxx.
Fox: So, the greatest response was from journalists like Gary Fields at the Wall Street Journal or columnists like Clarence Page and black leaders around the country. Because, essentially, this is something that many Americans know is happening; they see it in their streets and their communities, but the statistics just haven't recognized it. So, this is evidence-based, obviously. It's not just some white guy spewing out ideas. It's all based on numbers. And the numbers confirm the experience of many Americans that crime rates are not down across the board.
Now, let's look at some data. I don't want to overdo too many numbers here. This early in the morning an overdose of statistics is called math murder, and I don't want to do that.
Fox: But you can see, these are the percentage change in murder rates. There has been a nearly 10 percent increase among males; a 20 percent increase among young males, teenage males; over a 40 percent increase among young black males. And when you throw guns into the mix, the increase in five years has been nearly 50 percent.
And I will tell you, by the way, just for the researchers in this room, these are offenders. And through funding from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the American Statistical Association, I've gone through a process of multiple imputation, filling in the data that are missing, particularly on the unsolved homicides; so these are estimates. These are both known offenders and reasonable estimates of unsolved homicides and the characteristics of the perpetrators that we believe committed them.
That is, for example, if a 14-year.old black male was a victim of a homicide and it's unsolved, we can pretty much be sure that it's not an 80-year.old white female who committed it. So, we can go through the process of imputation. And these numbers are imputed when they're not available. But as you can see, we have this surge.
Now, there wasn't a complete 100 percent positive response in the press. The sole negative came from Steven Levitt and his New York Times blog, Mr. Freak Economist. And he indeed suggested that, well, you know, I was talking about numbers, number of killers, and it's all a matter of population growth. And the New York Times did a graphic based on my data, and you can see there the surge among black youth and the level among white youth. And he said, well, that's just because of population growth, as you can see in his comments in blue.
Well, that's actually not quite the case. Because the 11.and.a.half percent increase over the five-year period of time in the number of black male 14. to 17-year.olds, cannot account for an over 40 percent increase in the number of perpetrators. I understand his point — that in the long term you want to adjust for population size — but in the short term it doesn't matter that much.
And it's very important that we not — oftentimes we talk about rates per 100,000, and we lose sight of the fact that these're people. You know, that hundreds of more people are being murdered one year to the next. And when you put it all into rates, it just doesn't sound like these are human lives that are being lost. So, it's important not to lose facts — the idea that there are 350 more young black males being murdered in 2007 than in 2002.
And indeed, if you do calculate rates, the rates basically look very similar to the volumes. And it's about a third increase. But a one-third increase in the rate in a five-year period of time is hardly something to ignore.
Now, also, Steven Levitt said I was an alarmist — you know, I'm overstating the case, just trying to get some media attention. Well, I was trying to get media attention. I did do the press release and embargoed the report until the day after Christmas weekend to get the most play.
Fox: But for a purpose: To get people's attention.
And he claimed that I sort of ignored the fact that things certainly aren't that bad. If you go back to the bad old days of 1990, things were much worse.
Well, it was in my report. In fact, he took this figure right out of my report and put it on his blog to show the fact that there was this peak back in 1990s. We all remember those bad days. And he is suggesting that what's happening today is nothing, nothing compared to back then. Well, I agree that things are a lot better in 2007 or '8 or '9, notwithstanding the increase we've seen in the last few years. But they're a lot worse than they were in 2000. And why wait around and see if we'll get back to the point, or even close to the point we were back in 1990, and do nothing now about it.
Now, I mentioned guns, too, because guns are an important part of the change. As you can see here, the homicides by teenagers involving guns represents the entire growth since 2000. There has been no increase at all in the number of homicides committed with other weapons by teenagers.
And then when you break it down again by race and gender, you see there, in the red, at the rate of killing by young black males per 100,000 — if you want rates, with guns — has surged, and that's the almost 50 percent I talked about before. In percentage terms, we are now at a record high peak in terms of the percentage of homicides that involve guns among young black males. It's now up to 85 percent.
By the way, the percentage of homicides among white adults involving guns has continued to decline, as you can see there in the yellow line — the one I took to D.C. yesterday, the yellow line — it's down now to about 50 percent.
But importantly, when we look at the red, we made progress in the 1990s. But of course we had the Brady law, and we had the assault weapons ban. We had the ATF gun tracing initiative to identify the rogue dealers that were supplying the guns to the youth crime market. We had a variety of lawsuits, in New York, Boston, California, basically to try to get the gun industry to shape up in terms of their advertising and business practices.
And all those things worked. We did indeed see in the 1990's a decline in the percentage of homicides involving guns among all segments of the population across the board. But since 2000, now that we have the Tiahrt amendment, which restricts the use of gun tracing data, now that we have Congress passing the immunity law protecting the gun industry from lawsuits. Who knew, when they talked about tort reform back in the 2000 election that we meant just the gun industry? That's what we're really talking about.
And then who knows what will happen in the years ahead post-Heller?
So, there is reason for concern that we've taken steps backwards in terms of the issue of guns. And a gun in the hand of a teenager is a very deadly mix. Though he may not be trained in using that firearm, he's much more likely to be trigger happy, much more likely to pull the trigger, over seemingly trivial issues. And therein lies the problem.
So, we have to get back to what we were doing in the 1990s in terms of guns, without violating the Second Amendment, of course, which none of that did.
Now, the issue of the comeback of the gang problem; it's hard to measure, because the most unreliable part of the supplementary homicide reports are the circumstance codes. This is an understatement, an undercount.
And by the way, these are not imputed. So, we're not really sure what percentage of homicides now involve gangs. But certainly there seems to have been a resurgence in gang activity. And we know when you stop paying much attention to a problem, it rebounds. We don't solve the gang problem, we control it. And when you stop paying so much attention to it, it rebounds.
And many cities, like mine, like Boston and other cities, which had very successful efforts in the 1990s in dealing with gangs in their cities, once we reached about 2000 and the gang problem seemed to go away, a lot of those resources were cut. A lot of those anti.gang initiatives were cut. And we, of course, are seeing the results of it.
There's lots of talk about summer and the fact that there are very few jobs out there for youth. Well, that may be. But gangs are always hiring. Gangs are always recruiting. And what we have to understand about gangs is that there's lots of positive reasons why kids join gangs. They join gangs to feel special. It's thrilling. It's exciting. They get praised, camaraderie, belonging to something important. And most of all is that gangs offer them opportunity. It doesn't matter what color their skin is. It doesn't matter if they went to Penn or not. I bought four degrees at Penn — quadruple Quaker. It doesn't matter where they went to college. You can rise right to the top of the gang; all you have to do is be loyal, fierce and go right to the top.
And what we have to do is continue to find ways that kids can fulfill the same needs without gang membership. I'm a big fan of Boys and Girls Club of America. I should plug them since I've worked with them for several years. The kind of work that they do — the after school programs that we worked on so much through the Clinton years were so vitally important in keeping kids safe, off the streets and out of gangs. And it's time to get back to those kind of initiatives.
A lot of the concern, of course, as well as the reason why gangs is an issue, is that parents aren't doing their job, and gangs are becoming a substitute family. Bill Cosby, of course, ruffled lots of feathers back in 2008, when he talked about problems in the black family. And the President, when he was campaigning about a year ago, on Father's Day, made some very bold statements about black fathers who are missing in action and AWOL.
Well, that's quite true. And there are many parents, perhaps, who were negligent and don't really care. But many parents are well meaning and would like to have a greater role in the upbringing of their kids. What we need to do is to assist parents, not assail them.
I have no idea what that says. How many minutes? I'm outta time. I'm almost done. OK? Great.
Fox: I really am. Got only a couple more.
I'm actually ending with this: Things are bad. And I don't want to be an alarmist and say they're out of control, 'cause they're not. Things are a lot better than they were before. But the potential does exist for things to get worse, in terms of the gun issue I mentioned, in terms of the cuts that we've seen in policing — 10 percent decline in per capita policing in major cities in this country over the past seven years — cuts in after school programs, cuts in also some youth prevention programs; so the conditions are there to make me worry.
In addition to that, if you look ahead, demography is not on our side; we will have more at-risk youth. This is the number of children under the age of five projected in the years ahead, broken down by race. Not much of an increase in the number of white kids. But black kids and Latino kids — large increases in the years ahead.
Now, these kids are under five; they're not out there committing crimes. But, you know, they get a year older every year. I know that's true, 'cause I teach statistics.
Fox: And it won't be long 'til these kids who are under five become 10 and 15. We did a very good job of dealing with the last generation of teenagers in the 1990s. But they don't pass along the message. You can't just say we've accomplished that, because we get a new group of teenagers every five years. We have to continue that effort.
So, let me conclude by summarizing what you have there. I will really focus on the fact that obviously economic times are tough. We all know that. But, you know, you can't tell an 8-year.old, "Hey, wait 'til the recession is over; we'll get back to you. I know you've got issues that we need to deal with; we just don't have the money. Wait 'til the recession is over." An 8-year.old can't wait. He's going to get to be 9 and 10 and 11 very soon. And it's important that we reach them now, when they're young and impressionable and will be impressed by what a preacher, a teacher or some other authority figure has to say. It's better that we pre-habilitate these kids rather than rehabilitate.
So, money is tight, but we found the resources to bail out the banks and to bail out the car industry. Maybe we need a bailout for at-risk youth. Really, the choice is ours. Either pay for these programs now or pray for the victims later.
Thank you very much.
Part 4: Gary Slutkin, Executive Director, Chicago Project for Violence Prevention, Chicago, Illinois
Don't start my time yet.
Slutkin: I gotta find this. OK? Ready; go.
Slutkin: Good morning, everybody. I'm Gary Slutkin.
I want to say that, following this presentation, there will be a workshop on the CeaseFire method that our chief operating officer and program director, Candice Kane, is leading, with Frank Perez, our outreach trainer and director, our two data and evaluation experts, Tim Metzger and Charlie Ransford, and two violence interrupters, Alfonso Praeder and Amena Matthews. So, they'll be going into more depth as to how this works.
I'm going to be talking a lot about the thinking that has gone into the design and development of a new intervention for reducing violence, which we're calling CeaseFire. I will spend a very short amount of time on what it looks like in the field and will end up with the results of the National Institute of Justice independent external evaluation, which has pretty much documented this as evidence-based practice and a proven method for reducing shootings and killings in neighborhoods.
This is our landscape. This is the environment in which we have intentionally designed, developed, piloted and replicated an intervention, which was not based on individual outcomes but on community-level outcomes of reducing the overall numbers of shootings and killings in neighborhoods. You can see the geographic — what we call spatial clustering of the problem. The red bodies are deaths, and the black guns are nonfatal events. Again, the clustering typical of any epidemic event.
Just to point out, Chicago's rate, or density, of killings is surpassed by nearly 30 other cities in the United States. Over 25 cities have rates that are worse than Chicago's now.
The impact of violence well known to most of the people here. But the high relevance of highlighting this is the idea that, should we be able to reverse this epidemic and put it behind us, as we have so many other epidemic problems, these would be some of the things that we would no longer have to deal with.
So, we began to look at this problem from a scientific angle. I'm a health guy. We in health have made mistakes many, many times, as the general public has, in condemning populations, whether they had cancer, they were considered bad people at one time. People with tuberculosis were once considered bad people. People with mental health, very recently, and in many countries around the world, mental health disorders are considered bad people. Alcoholism was considered something of bad people.
And now we realize that these are all diseases. In fact, there is no science at all to good people and bad people. There is no science at all to this. These are all events, which are undesirable or desirable events. We really had a lot of trouble with this in the AIDS issue. So, if we were to understand this scientifically, what would we say? We would be looking at two sciences, principally two sciences, the sciences of behavior and the sciences of epidemics, or epidemiology, or the distribution of events, the characteristics of the events, how it's transmitted, how it forms.
And just staying with behavior for a minute, we would be asking the questions: How are behaviors formed? Would that be an important question? How are behaviors formed? And how are they maintained? How are behaviors maintained? And how are they changed?
Violence is a different behavior. Violence is a behavior. A sexual behavior, violence behavior, cigarette smoking behavior, drinking behavior, eating behavior, these are behaviors. Many of these behaviors have been thought to be somehow different. So, if we try to answer these questions crisply, under time pressures, we would say that the literature essentially shows that most behaviors, including violent behaviors, are formed. They're acquired. And how? Not by classroom learning, but by observation, by imitation, by copying.
There are even neurons in the brain that unconsciously see something and do the same thing, repeat it. So, very young children are both consciously and unconsciously looking to their older brothers and to the community around for what it is that is expected of me. And what maintains these behaviors are these expectations of peers. Peer expectations are what drive most behaviors. And it isn't just peer pressure, it's fear. It's fear of not doing what's expected of you.
I had an epiphany when I was working on AIDS — that is to say, sexual behavior — that the principal determinant of whether someone uses a condom is whether they think their friends use it. What a way to make a decision about your life. But soon it becomes unconscious.
The principal determinant of whether a mom breastfeeds is whether the other moms do. The principal determinant of my dress behavior today is what I think you expect of me. Therefore, I am not here in a bathing suit.
Slutkin: I am afraid to do that.
Slutkin: It isn't just social pressure.
So, this is what is normal. What is normal in this room is a certain type of dress. Also, notice that nobody's smoking here. Whereas, when I was in medical school, a third of us were smoking at conferences like this, even doctors in training. So, the norm, or the social expectation, can be changed by behavior change methods, to which we're beginning to apply to the science of this field.
And then the other business, or science, to be applied is that of epidemic control. Now, what about epidemics and violence?
Well, here is the most extreme example of an epidemic. This is a cholera epidemic. Why is he talking about cholera? Look at the curve. A point source epidemic, suddenly an infection, from dirty water, from contaminated water, affects one population. And then there is a secondary curve here of a new susceptible population. Those are refugees that came in, and they became infected secondarily.
Well, here is a killing curve, looking very much the same. This is from Rwanda. An extreme example of violence appearing in an epidemic wave. With a second wave also, in this case a population that was hiding being found, being newly susceptible and newly responding to this. And in fact, almost all of the killing curves show the same wave characteristics, the same infectivity, the same transmission characteristics, the same incubation period, variabilities, dormancy and susceptibilities of populations and relapse characteristics.
So, how are epidemics reversed? Would you like to know? It so happens that there is really only two things we do. And everybody thinks that it is so incredibly scientific, but it is the science of how to apply strategy rather than just a science of, for example, chemotherapy or antibiotics, which are frequently a small part of strategy, as you're noting with the flu epidemic now.
So, these are the two things that we do in controlling epidemics. We interrupt transmission, and we change norms. How we interrupt transmission varies by the transmission characteristics. How we change the behavior norms have a lot of simplified, generalizable characteristics, but uses different messengers.
Interrupting transmission. Well, if this were measles we were talking about, or polio, the interrupting point would be done by vaccine. If this were TB — I worked in TB for several years — what we do is we find and treat the most infectious people to render their sputum noninfectious so they no longer can infect other people.
What we're doing now in CeaseFire is using violence interrupters who have the special abilities, through our recruiting and training and selecting and supervising and supporting this new professional cadre of worker, so that they can both detect and interrupt this transmission. And then, of course, we have to do something continuously with that person, because they've self-identified as a potential transmitter in the future, and we have to find more of them.
Likewise, changing social norms. Now, what is a social norm? Well, a social norm is what everybody else is doing. Well, why are they doing that? Well, they're doing it because everybody else is doing it. Well, why is he doing this? Because everybody else is doing it.
So, how do you change the norms? Well, it's principally by changing social expectations, which requires the use of credible messengers and multiple messengers through a management system. This is how many other behaviors, especially in the international environment, have been changed.
So, what does it look like? Here are violence interrupters. And you will learn more about them in the workshop. How are the norms changed? Violence interrupters and outreach workers both interrupting conflicts and working on the norm change. And then through a series of messengers systematically involved in both the social expectation change and the messaging by multiple other lines of communication, to change the perception of risk, which is social risk, as well as having an on.the.spot alternative, which is frequently face saving.
And so, these are the other pieces that you'll hear more about in the workshop that have to do with the community itself as a messenger, having a response to every single shooting in a CeaseFire zone; involving the clergy, who are also trained to be messengers, effective for some and not for others; and then a public education campaign, as for smoking, as for drunk driving, as for any behavior that you're trying to change.
So, what does it look like? Well, here is one of our first neighborhoods. Look at the seasonality, shootings per neighborhood. When the program begins, the drop and the plateaus. This is the Logan Square neighborhood, a number of plateaus, dropping off when the program starts. Here the program is doubled. And here are two more interrupters added. And you can see the dose response characteristics of the intervention.
The first 12 communities.
Here is our data, which we were tracking before the external evaluation. I want to show you the first 18 communities.
These are the first six, with three sets of comparisons, including rate-controlled, contiguous neighborhoods and the city as a whole. All statistical at the 0.01 level, measuring shootings and killings combined.
The next eight communities.
And then the last four.
These are all 18. No cherry picking.
And here is the beginnings of the introduction to the external evaluation that NIJ funded that Wes Skogan was lead author. This is a three-year study covering eight communities over seven years of intervention, with a baseline that extended for much longer than that. Four universities were involved. Four different types of statistical analysis were used on this. Every single statistical method that was applied to this showed a statistical result. And every community had a statistical result.
Time series analysis; hotspot mapping; gang network analysis, looking at retaliation murders; and intensive confidential interviews with the highest risk people. There is materials on this that will be available at the workshop as well.
So, this is now a proven method to reduce shootings and killings in neighborhoods and to make neighborhoods safer. It reduces shootings and killings.
These are hot spots — this is from the evaluation — becoming cooler.
These are the drops in reciprocal murders. The interrupters are nearly 100 percent at preventing retaliation murders.
Two other neighborhoods are showing 46 and 50 percent drops. Five out of eight showed a 100 percent drop in retaliation murders. If they know it, they stop it, if they know about the potential.
These are individual outcomes of clients, the highest, highest risk clients, which is confirmed by the study that they were. These are not referrals from school, referrals from court, referrals from probation or parole. These are the people who our street information is, are those who are involved right now and most at risk of actually doing an event.
But the main thing about the intervention is that its outcomes were communitywide. And what I am trying to put forward here is that there is a difference between reducing recidivism or getting someone out of a gang, of which there have been many different experiences, versus having a community-level drop in shootings and killings.
We have systems for replication of this, which I will not go through here, but they include the hiring of new types of workers, interrupters, outreach workers, coordinators, canvassers and others who are involved in the pieces of the work, just like any immunization program or TB program. This is now a coming profession, a new profession, which the community works and the city works.
The opportunity, we feel now, is to develop a learning partnership around this. Our goals now are to work with the National Institute of Justice and DOJ and others to develop a learning partnership to even improve this more, to learn more from it and expand it, with five or six cities at the center who are very serious about its adaptation, where, together, we can get the resources to apply it.
If you take the percent reductions that this intervention has shown in multiple communities now through multiple methods and extrapolate it to citywide application in any of the major cities that have very, very serious problems or those who have moderately serious problems, an enormous impact, probably on the order of between 40 and 60 percent drops, might be expected to be seen, if put to full coverage in communities. And the savings, not to mention the life savings, would be transformative.
Thank you very much.
Part 5: Colonel M. Kim Ward, Community Resources Bureau, Baltimore County Police Department, Towson, Maryland
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I thank NIJ for the opportunity today. And I'm very honored to be here with so many colleagues.
Again, my name is Kim Ward, from Baltimore County. I'd like to speak this morning about a domestic violence lethality assessment program that's being used in all 21 counties in Maryland, developed through some research by Dr. Jackie Campbell, also sponsored by NIJ, and a guy named David Sargent, who was formerly a lieutenant at MPD and now runs the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.
As I said, it's running in all 21 counties in Maryland, but it's about 66 agencies. And our agency is one of the first large agencies to try it. So, I thought I'd start with this little map about Baltimore County.
I'd like to let you know that 800,000 people live here. We have one police department serving that whole territory. We did the pilot down there in the bottom right.hand section, the purple section, for the Baltimore Ravens. Unfortunately, it also handles most of the serious domestic incidences and domestic violence cases that we have. They average about 300 a month in that particular area. So, it keeps us busy.
We have 10 precincts, and we have a domestic violence coordinator position in every precinct. I say that because many of you will be standing out there saying, "Oh, yeah, where do I get one of those?" And we'll talk about that under the leadership area.
Most of our population lives within five miles of the Beltway. You see, we surround the city, as I said, like a horseshoe. They are up to 101 homicides year to date. We average about 35 to 40 homicides year to date, which is why we're so interested in retaining this program.
Again, the assessment program is a tool, but it's been very successful for us. And I'd like to just spend a few minutes on that program.
In Maryland, you can see that our partner homicide averages about 1,200 per year. Sixty.nine men, women and children in Maryland. Our goal was to use this instrument, directed by this committee, to look at what an officer can do on the scene to deal with the danger of death at the scene at the time that they're there. Sort of the golden hour that the health care industry uses, or the golden 24 hours, to get intervention into that home.
A lot of the committee members included DSS, which are critical; the prosecutors of course; law enforcement; and domestic violence advocates, our nonprofit providers. Dr. Campbell found some key things in her research, and she helped us to identify the things that many law enforcement officers know by instinct. What is the victim's perception of what's going on here? What is their fear level? What is the access to weapons? What happens with the threats of violence at the scene? What's the suspect's employment status, et cetera? You can read the rest.
We then started, as we're moving along in our committee, to say, "Hey, can we do a pilot program in this North Point area to see how it goes before we go countywide?" We go into a whole separate script. And here's what that looked like.
This beautiful family, the Browning family, in February, while we're running the pilot, this young man, Nicholas, kills his entire family. Five days short of his 16th birthday. He gets in a dispute with dad. You can see the headlines from the Baltimore papers around this particular topic. A very big tragedy, and one that many people were shaking their head at, but aren't a family of note on our radar screen, so to speak.
Why is that? Because everything's out of the norm. There's no history of violence in the home. There's no violence where the children have touched the criminal justice system. There's no suspected mental illness or behavioral problems or substance abuse. The kids go to an elite school. There was some section about bullying. But you get the picture.
Three months later, Lewin Powell kills his mother in a Towson suburb of this particular area. And he's an elite student at McDonogh, a private prep school. He takes the mother's body out, puts it in the garage. The next day, dad comes home — he worked at night — dad is sleeping on the couch. The next day Lewin gets up and tries to do the same thing with dad. So, now we're almost 16 hours later.
What is that about? Again, the media coverage. Unbelievable. But again, the same script. Not on our radar screen. Looks like a great kid. Great grades, hasn't touched criminal justice system, et cetera. Maybe a little bit on the overbearing side with mom, we're not sure yet.
And then, almost a year later, as we start concluding the pilot program in Dundalk, for domestics, we get this tragic scene at one of our Sheraton's in Towson, where Mr. Parente decides to kill his entire family and commit suicide. They were down here visiting their oldest daughter, who attends Loyola College. Again, the same kind of situation, where we don't really have any factors on the radar screen. The family appears to be a traditional family, from an affluent area. The FBI has this case right now.
So, like you, we're doing the things you're doing. We're tracking domestics. We're looking at the charts. We're looking at graphs. We're trying to figure out who's committing what kinds of homicides, and how are they domestically related. We have a fatality review board. But we decide to stick with the script, come back to the assessment program and to work with Dr. Campbell's information.
What are we asking the officers to do? We're asking them to do what they normally do, just go in and take a few more minutes. Ask a few more questions than you usually do. And if you get a certain answer in these questions, then we know there's potential for fatal behavior. So, we want you to actually talk to the lady, or the man, that's the victim in this case. And if the screening form is checked off at a certain level, then you literally try to ask that person to get on the phone with a counselor at the scene.
Now, many of you are saying, "What? How does that work?" And that's what we got, too. But the fact is, it's been very successful. And the fact that the officer is there saying, "Listen, you answered yes' to these top questions. There's a likelihood that you are really in danger and that lethality is a possibility. Please talk to this person."
You can't believe the difference. They really do respond. So, that immediacy of hooking them up with a counselor. This, I know, is overwhelming, but once an officer uses it three or four times, they don't need the training module anymore; they know how to handle it from the scene. And they actually end up developing relationships with counselors, and they know the players. They know the people. And it creates a better structured system.
As I stated earlier, we're lucky and have a luxury of having domestic violence coordinators in each precinct. What do they do? They get every report that comes in on domestics from that precinct. They handle every background. They make appointments the next day with the nonprofit advocate to go out and actually meet with this victim again and to answer questions, to continue the treatment process, to try to deal with whatever is needed for that family — everything from the children down to the family dog. And again, immediate access to resources.
This would be, of course, the chart the domestic violence coordinator would follow- And of course, they do this every day, so they're very familiar with it.
Here's the simple form. One more form. It's not that long. It might take you five or 10 more minutes at the scene. And remember, we have this philosophy, when you're out of service in law enforcement, right, you're actually problem solving. When you're in service, you're actually doing preventative patrol, waiting for 911 calls for service, et cetera. So, it kind of deals with that principle.
The first three questions, if they trigger a "yes" response, the protocol comes in and the counselor is contacted. If those are "no," and there's any answer to the four of the next six questions, then the protocol comes into place. And of course, an officer can also impact or influence the protocol automatically.
I know those were small, so I'll put these up. The first three questions: Ever used a weapon against you? Ever threatened to kill you? Do you think the person might try to kill you?
If any of those are "yes," the protocol is automatically initiated. The rest of the questions, four of those questions, come into play. Once you have a total of four, the protocol is in place. And of course, if the officer states it should happen.
When we looked at the numbers of calls for service before the pilot in this particular pilot area, you can see the calls for service that we had over 2,000; repeat offenders, 124. So, we're trying to get the most serious family situations in that area. The year of the pilot, calls for service down considerably. And of course, repeat offender calls down considerably.
What were the biggest results? We were shocked. We were guessing in the thirties for victims screened in the high dangerous area. It turned out to be 56 percent of 'em answered in that area. Eighty.five percent of 'em spoke to a lethality line counselor. Ninety.six percent of 'em agreed to the follow-up home visits. And a third of the callers went to treatment. Eleven percent of 'em actually accessed follow-up treatment, including, perhaps, housing.
What were the leadership issues we experienced as an agency? Of course, our relationship with external partners was critical. If you don't have them, it's a little hard to build this base. We were really blessed to have a lot of that infrastructure in place.
Culture. What is the attitude of your officers in the area of domestic violence? Is there emotional intelligence, or is it an immature culture about the issue? And how do you, as leaders, attend to that? What is the attitude in general with your county of the role of the state's attorney, prosecutors, judges, et cetera?
What are you doing on the prevention front? And how does that outreach work? And there are a number of examples here.
Community newsletters to make sure the word is reaching the community.
Outreach to diverse populations. What special plans do you have in place to make that work?
How can you get out help cards and other things to local libraries and areas where people are constantly trafficking?
What happens with the role of the chief in management? In our case, our chief came on board and said, "Absolutely, we're gonna to stop. The pilot has showed me enough success. We're going countywide. This is how we're going to work it. Give me a plan. Figure out how it's going to work." He set the tone, and that was obviously a big support.
Assessment and evaluation, just like in any problem-solving process.
And then increased workload. Just be honest about that. Any time you're dealing with a nonprofit outreach structure, the word gets out, things happen, sort of through quiet leadership and the spread of the tipping point, and then all of a sudden you have more volume. So, that is a reality that has to be managed in this. In fairness, we haven't seen an overly abundant amount of people going into shelters. So, it's worked very well so far, although we're just in our first month for the whole county.
Prevention and intervention within 24 hours is the key, key crux of the success of this program, how to get in there immediately.
This is just a copy of the first page of our special order, which again shows everybody what is the real goal, and then what's the relationship to who we are as a department. If we're really going to be about service, if we're really getting to the highest levels of service and looking at how to prevent victimization, this is what we're gonna be about.
Our legislators helped us this year in Maryland. They did make a decision on temporary orders, that judges now have the authority to have suspects temporarily surrender firearms. And then in a final order they can permanently order that.
Again, more prevention efforts. Just some examples here for how this can work. The training part only took one roll call. We went through all the roll calls. The domestic violence person handled that for us. Obviously you have to have different rank structures understand the program and say, OK, this is what we're going to do. Take it to the field and make sure the message gets down for compliance.
One of the other lessons learned besides the high danger rate was the immediate interaction reduced the gap in service provisions and increased the number of people accepting services, which was of course a big goal.
What were some of the other things? Decrease in time delays of delivery of service. We increased interactions between victims, police officers and advocates. We had an increased number of people receiving services, a decrease in overall victimization, and levels of injury were also decreased. An increase in conviction rate. Of course we have court advocates as well, which was a help. A decrease in the amount of time spent on these types of calls for our officers, which was the antithesis of what they were anticipating, I think. And decreases in the amount of time spent for follow-up
I'd like to leave this up because we don't have a follow-up session, but we're very happy to speak more in depth about the program for anyone who is interested. I really want to thank David Sargent, the people from Maryland that work on domestic violence, all the other advocates in the county who have put so much hard work into this.
And again, Kris, I'm very grateful to NIJ for the opportunity to present.
Part 6: Question and Answer/Discussion
Laurie Robinson: Well, that was terrific. And I think each of our panelists have been great in setting this out.
Now, as you're getting your questions ready for the panelists, I want to throw one question out to each of them. And I'm gonna ask them to confine their answers to just about two minutes each. I want to ask them — they each are miked up so they can answer from their chairs — if you could think of one or two things that the federal government could best do from kind of the OJP standpoint to make a difference in this area, what would be the best federal role?
And let me start with Jamie Fox.
Jamie Fox: That too loud?
Robinson: You're very loud.
Fox: Sorry, I'll whisper.
Robinson: No, that's great.
Fox: Well, I think I'd go back to doing some of the things we did in the '90s. Because we don't need to reinvent wheels. And in terms of evidence-based policy, I will go back to the after school programs. Of course it was that primetime for juvenile crime, that 49 percent of youth violence occurred in the after school hours, which eventually ended up in the State of the Union Address that was so powerful, because it was based on data.
And that whether you were republican or democrat, leftwing or rightwing, you had to confront the fact that kids after school weren't going and working on the farms. That they were on their own, and they weren't doing a very good job of raising themselves. And we had a problem of violence after school and drug abuse and alcohol and teen pregnancy. So, I would just go back and look more closely at what the federal government can do to restore some of those programs and improve 'em.
Because part of the difficulty with the 21st Century Schools Initiative, and the eventual evaluation by Mathematica, which basically condemned some of the after school programs, is you can't do it on a shoestring. Yeah, you can call it an after school program, because it's after school. But prevention is oftentimes criticized. Prevention can work, but prevention done right does work. And if it's funded correctly, if it's given a long enough window of time to show results, it can make a difference.
So, that's what I would recommend, going back to dealing with the needs of kids before the point that they are heavily engaged in gang activity.
Robinson: Okay. Gary? And by the way, we are glad you did not come in a swimsuit.
Gary Slutkin: You're not so sure.
Robinson: Well, I don't know. That's right.
Robinson: I don't have evidence behind my comment. You are correct.
Slutkin: Yes. We need science.
Fox: He has it underneath, you know.
Slutkin: Yes. All right, too much of that one.
Robinson: Okay. Your answer, please?
Slutkin: Intentional, proactive, coordinated effort, focused on the 15 to 25 cities with the highest rate and the highest numbers can drop this problem and put it behind us. Focusing on what's going on right now. Getting rid of the murders. Because those who are doing it now are driving the social pressure of those who are younger. I think there is a little bit of an inverse thinking about having to reach the younger in order that later they might not do it. The younger are looking at the older. So, I'd say drop these rates really fast now, and I think that can be done.
Robinson: Great. Kim?
Kim Ward: I would be an advocate of continued research. It's very helpful to read what so many other people put a lot of time into to help us see the clear picture. Evaluation of that research also helps us to make the arguments.
Of course, continued funding, which helps us implement. And then I would ask the federal government — and I know this sounds idealistic, and we're speaking to the choir here — but if they could continue to understand that it really is true that the soft stuff is the hard stuff. This is tricky, sticky stuff that you have to get into with communities, that you have to get into from a prevention point of view. And it's so much more complicated than many other things we see.
Robinson: Excellent. Well those were very helpful comments.
And let me now ask people with questions to step up to the mikes. We have one in each of the aisles. You seem to be a shy group this morning. We actually have Kris Rose stepping up to the mike. Oh, my goodness!
Kristina Rose: Thank you, all three of you. Is this working?
Robinson: No. Oh, there it is. OK. Good.
Rose: Thank you. Your presentations were all so thoughtful and interesting.
Gary, I've heard you speak before, and I was wondering if perhaps — and I know this will probably happen in the workshop afterwards — but if perhaps you could give an example of how the homicide interrupters actually work. Perhaps use a real.life example to explain to the audience here how that happens.
Slutkin: Is there an interrupter in the audience who would like to get right in the middle of a conflict right here, right now?
Ward: There is one.
Robinson: We can create a conflict just to have that happen.
Slutkin: Alfonso, do you want to get up and mediate a conflict here between the person at your right and the person at your left.
Robinson: Here comes an interrupter.
Here's a mike.
Alfonso Praeder: (softly) Hello. My name is Alfonso Praeder.
Slutkin: Give him the mike a little better.
Robinson: Yeah, can you speak up a little bit and maybe speak a little closer?
Praeder: Hello. My name is Alfonso Praeder. I'm a violence interrupter with CeaseFire Chicago, Illinois.
How we stop violence on the front end, you have to be out in the streets, first of all. You have to know your neighborhood. And the process of me doing it is that I'm going to get two individuals, and I'll see where I can start at.
Robinson: Do you want to recruit some people? Chips, why don't you go up there. I know Chips'll do it.
Slutkin: Yes. Cool this guy down, will you?
[Audience members and Praeder participate in an exercise, mostly off microphone.]
Slutkin: Laurie, I don't know how much time you want to give this ...
Robinson: Oh, I think it's great.
Slutkin: I have to add something. This isn't something that lasts sometimes five minutes. This might go on for the whole night. It might go on for three or four days. But these guys have the credibility. That's who we're recruiting. And they are trained and trained and trained. And they're experts and professional.
Fox: I was just glad they didn't have any guns with them.
Slutkin: No, our guys don't. These guys, I don't know what they're going through.
Fox: Can I just say something quick about Chicago?
Robinson: Yes. I just want to say, for those of you who may not know, one of these disputants was the former Director of the National Institute of Justice, James K. "Chips" Stewart. So, Chips.
Slutkin: Good job.
Fox: I want to say something about Chicago. Chicago has seen so much success in terms of homicide. But last year there was tremendous amount of media attention to the fact that the homicide numbers were up again. And this reflects the tremendous myopia that we tend to have about crime statistics. And I'm an expert in what myopia is since I'm terribly nearsighted. But we tend to look at one year to the next.
And the problem with 2008 in Chicago, it was worse than 2007, but it was the second best year they had had in like 10 years. So, they had become a victim of their own success — that 2007 was so good and 2008 was good, but not quite. Unfortunately, the media, the general public, just is so focused on one-year changes that some of the great efforts and the great successes you see in Chicago, in places like Boston, when you have a one-year upturn, it's like, "What have you done for me lately?" And that's unfortunate.
Slutkin: I have to follow that. Chicago went up by 50 homicides last year and by 400 shootings. It occurred absolutely perfectly concurrently with the removal of the CeaseFire intervention, which began in September of 2007, as a result of the fighting between — and many of you know about Illinois — our former governor and our speaker. So, the CeaseFire intervention was interrupted and the shootings and killings went up the next month, starting the next month, and through the whole next 15 months.
Robinson: But Jamie's point is a very good one, and you should have been at the side of the police commissioner. I'm sure he could have used you as the city council and the mayor were beating him up.
Fox: It happens all the time. I get a call from a city. They say that crime is up. And you look closely at the historical data, and you find that it's just so far down. It's sort of like a diet. You go on a diet, a crash diet, lose lots of weight and inevitably put a few pounds on. It doesn't mean you're obese. It just means that at a certain point you plateau, and there is a little bounce up.
The challenge is, when you see a bounce.up, or bounce back, to make sure it's not a huge bounce back. Unfortunately, we just can't seem to get that.
When we look at the stock market, if it goes up one day, it doesn't mean the recession's over. And if it goes down one day, it doesn't mean the depression's here. We have a lot more long-term perspective and understanding about stocks. But crime, I don't know, we're just one year to the next, as if long-term history just doesn't matter. And it really does. And so often we find good programs and good people pushed out because of one year, where things are bad. And it's only because the previous year was just unbelievably good.
Robinson: Good point.
Sir, can you identify yourself?
Questioner: Sure, Paul Tibbets, with Bernas Communications.
Gary, you may have touched on this at the end of the skit with your comments, but I think a lot of us who have been involved at the community and ground level have seen different versions of caseworkers, community workers, community people. What do you think distinguishes your violence interrupters and community outreach workers from all the other 50 different types that we've seen?
Slutkin: Well, several things. The first is that the focus of the whole program and their work is reducing shootings and killings. It's not about drug stuff. It's not about getting out of gangs. It's not about all kinds of other nonspecific stuff. It is a very singular, linear objective.
Secondly, there's specialization. The violence interrupters are all about finding, detecting and preventing potential events. And the outreach workers, although they help with that, now have specific jobs on changing their thinking. So, that their thinking actually clicks in the other direction for the long term.
And then what the staff have put into place, in terms of the systems and structures and processes and safeguards, so that the workers that are selected are not just whoever somebody thought of or somebody liked or were doing it before but are really selected for having the most credibility, the most hunger for making the help, and then all of the training. The training system that this team has put into place is very solid. So, they're not just out there. These are professionally trained workers.
Robinson: Any other questions out there?
Robinson: Let me throw one, Gary, to you. When we were talking about interaction with police, how do you work, as an example, with the police department? I know you and I have had some conversations about that. But it would be helpful if you could share that with the audience here.
Slutkin: Thank you for asking that. It's tricky, as you know, because we work alongside law enforcement. So, that law enforcement does what they do, and we do what we do. In other words, they catch people if they cross the line. We make sure people don't cross the line so that you get a "one plus one is 10" effect if both are doing their jobs.
But our workers cannot be seen to be too close to police or they lose their credibility, right? So, the interrupters and outreach workers are not having contacts with law enforcement. However, centrally in the program, myself, other senior staff, and at the community level, there's a lot of coordination of various functions.
Law enforcement have to know what our workers do. So, when they see us schmoozing with these guys, they're aware that that's their job; that's our job. And so they don't suspect something other than that from occurring. But we're not snitching. We get asked by law enforcement a lot: Can you help prevent this retaliation? This is going on; can you help cool that down? Can you help cool that down?
So, those who we've been working with for a while know the benefits of having the intervention there.
The one thing I didn't mention is that the work is done by community organizations in most cases. And there's a coordinator and a director, and that person works with the commander at the neighborhood level.
Robinson: Great. Let me turn over here.
Questioner: Thank you. My name is Pat Abbe, and I'm from the Seattle area.
I've been involved in prevention for over 30 years now. And one of the things that I've been observing, especially since the economic crisis, as city councils, different department heads are trying to deal with budgets, it seems like prevention is getting hacked all over the place. It seems like prevention is being downplayed and seen as a secondary issue.
As I hear you all speak, you are bringing it up to the forefront, and it's really a delight to hear, and I appreciate all of your science that you're bringing to it. What I want to know is do you have any sort of a response plan, almost like a prevention SWAT team type of plan that, as prevention programs start going under attack — what do you bring up to deal with some of the talk show people who tend to mock some of this work, or some of the budget players that are involved in this?
Fox: There's a whole list of programs that have worked, from preschool programs, like the Perry preschool program, they've got SPRAT, all the way up to the after school programs. There's a whole range of them, and they're in all various NIJ documents.
Questioner: They're all thrown out during budget crises. They're disregarded and downplayed.
Fox: Exactly. There are several issues. One with prevention is that the public seems to want a 100 percent success rate. You can have a program that works 98 percent of the time, and then there's some failure, some kid goes astray, despite being in a program, and the program is scrapped — "See, it doesn't work."
Then there is also the issue of timing. To my mind, really the most effective programs are the programs that address kids at the early stages. Whether it be preschool or elementary school. They really work terrifically. But it takes five to 10 years to see the results, at least in terms of crime rates. And unfortunately for much of our political leadership, waiting five to 10 years is just too long. "Someone else is going to get credit, because I won't be around. I won't be re-elected. I won't be in office by then."
But I think as a nation we have to really be farsighted and understand that we can invest in kids now and wait years to see the results in terms of crime. In the meantime, there are going to be lots of other benefits in terms of the wellness of these children, their educational benefits, their mental health benefits.
So, I think this country just needs a re-education about prevention. I have this thing called the "Eight Principles of Prevention" that I could e-mail you. It talks about the basic issues that we know about prevention that, unfortunately, the public oftentimes does misunderstand.
Kim Ward: Our whole plan has to do with one word. It doesn't even need any paper. It's "community." And if you have that basis of communication and you're in touch and you're communicating constantly on your prevention programs and levels, we have a lot of success there. In fact, Baltimore City yesterday had a big outreach initiative. Hundreds of parents showing out, because they cut some of the recreation centers in the city. And of course they're dealing with this homicide issue, so it's similar to what Dr. Fox is saying.
Slutkin: I want to add just two things. One is that we have to be separating out the individual outcome programs from community-level outcome programs. So, a lot of, in fact, the individual outcome programs have not shown community-level benefit, even two years, five years or 15 years later.
Second, and I know a lot of the people who are involved in this, there is a part of a misinterpretation of prevention to not realize how fast change can happen. Because prevention, in fact, does have more to do with changing the now than everybody realizes.
We've seen this over and over and over again, immunization programs, child mortality programs, TB programs, and now interventions, which can change things within a year and two years. And that isn't what's being discussed enough.
And then third, there is a confusion in the public mind between what works and what makes people feel good. So, a lot of what is going on now is stuff that has already been disproven. Not only unproven but disproven. But it makes the public feel good because it nurtures anger and these kinds of things. So, the separation between what works and makes you feel good, we have not split our brain well enough on this stuff.
Robinson: I would think, from a very practical standpoint, I would find law enforcement allies and talk to the group Fight Crime, Invest in Kids, which is headquartered here in Washington, that Gil Kerlikowske was the president of.
Questioner: Yes, I know the group well.
Slutkin: A great group.
Robinson: Yes, ma'am?
Questioner: Hi. Thank you very much to the panelists.
Robinson: Can you identify yourself, please?
Questioner: My name is Moira Fiedler. I'm with the COPS office.
Robinson: Oh, wonderful. Good.
Questioner: And I have a few questions for Colonel Ward. As you know, law enforcement struggles with victims filing against the perpetrator in domestic violence. Do you find that your program increases the willingness to file charges, versus the people that answer "no" to those first three questions and don't go through this potential lethality program?
Ward: Yes, the pilot program does show an increase in all types of orders, in all types of filings and in some of the actual final decisions from the court. So, we're very fortunate there.
Questioner: Thank you.
Ward: And we can send you all that, too.
Questioner: Oh, that'd be great. Thank you.
And then the second question I have is how many repeat calls for service do you have to someone, the victim, who answers "no" on those questions, for whatever reason? Maybe fear of backlash from the perpetrator. How many times do those escalate into multiple, repeat calls for service? And then do they actually go through the intervention program?
Ward: Yes, that's a great question. We do have some, where there's still a repeat call for service. And we've tried to take a couple of other avenues, including meeting the victims at other locations, perhaps it's the home environment or some other place that they're uncomfortable. But it continues to be this work between the officer and the advocate, who go together to these home visits to empower the victim in that particular case and get to problem solving the conflict in that home in one way or another. It is something we're tracking, though, to get to, like in the pilot, those 21 houses we still have on the radar screen.
Questioner: Thank you.
Robinson: This is our last question.
Questioner: My name is Aaron Voldman. I work with the Student Peace Alliance.
The Youth Promise Act, legislation aimed at supporting community-based approaches to violence prevention and intervention, has been rapidly picking up co-sponsors in the U.S. House, currently sitting at 155. Have you worked on the legislation, or do you have views about the bill?
Robinson: Are you asking me or the panel?
Questioner: Those who are speaking, the panelists. You can answer too if you would like.
Robinson: Let me turn to the panel.
Ward: We have not, but I'll find you afterwards and learn more about it.
Fox: I'll let you take it.
Robinson: Well, the administration is looking at it and talking to the sponsors.
Questioner: Thank you.
Robinson: We're gonna have to wrap up now. I hope you can join me in thanking our terrific panel.