How Confronting Gangs Worked In Cincinnati


Criminologist David Kennedy’s program to reduce street crime by confronting major drug dealers is profiled in the New Yorker. The piece focuses on Kennedy’s work in Cincinnati, where he was called in after two high-profile shootings in 2006 created the perception that crime was out of control. Police had implemented a “zero tolerance” policy, arresting 2,600 people, but had little effect on the murder count, which continued to rise. Kennedy, a faculty member of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, urged police to identify gang members who were on parole or probation and call them to a meeting.

The cops would demand that the shootings end, and promise that, if they did not, the punishment would be swift and severe and target the entire gang. The city made coaching and job counseling available to those who wanted out of the thug life. The police were initially skeptical, but they implemented the program with a team that included social workers and academics. As a policing tool, Kennedy’s methodology has been successful in Cincinnati, the New Yorker says. Assistant Cincinnati Chief James Whalen says, “We will never engage in this kind of gang work again without academic support. No police department should.”

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