“Hot” Groups, Hot Places Strategy Can Work Better than Gun Control: Kennedy


On the ground, where American citizens are being shot and killed every day, the expanded gun background-check bill that failed in the U.S. Senate wouldn’t change much, writes David Kennedy of John Jay College’s Center for Crime Prevention and Control in the Los Angeles Times. The debates over gun control “entirely missed the point about the nature of most gun violence in America,” Kennedy says. Up to three-quarters of homicides in many cities are driven by gangs and drug crews. Most of the remainder is also concentrated among active criminals; ordinary citizens who own guns do not commit street robberies or shoot neighbors and wives. The most powerful interventions aimed at day-to-day gun violence lie elsewhere, says Kennedy.

Mayors, police chiefs, prosecutors, and academics have been moving on their own and have made real progress. Having face-to-face engagements with “hot” groups and individuals has helped cut homicide in Boston and Chicago, among other places. Focusing on “hot” places–particular blocks and corners that are at highest risk–can pay demonstrable dividends. Says Kennedy: “These approaches can work quickly, and they sidestep the culture war on guns because they require no legislative action. Most important, they bring relief to the beleaguered communities that need it the most.” He urges federal officials to use vehicles like the Community Oriented Policing office and Project Safe Neighborhoods to pursue such strategies.

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