All the bloggers and columnists have been chin-stroking about the causes of the recent rash of violent crimes in the LV cities, but that’s kind of a dead end. We do want to know why it’s happening, but more importantly we want to stop it from happening.
I would argue it’s not necessarily important to know why people want to shoot other people. What we really need to know is how high of a risk of getting caught the would-be shooters think they are incurring, and how to make that risk higher.
The best strategy I think we currently know about is “hot spot” policing. Think of it as Broken Windows 2.0. Broken windows was the criminology idea that police need to try for perfect enforcement – even small unpunished crimes (broken windows) communicate a low risk of arrest to would-be criminals, so you have to go after every crime, no matter how small. In practice, perfect enforcement isn’t actually possible, but the 2.0 version of this idea is that you can get close to perfect enforcement for one specific crime, in one targeted area. Once you clear that area, you target another and another and so on.
The conventional wisdom is that this would just displace the crime elsewhere, but when you actually look at the evidence on this it’s clear that the conventional wisdom is wrong. You can read more about it at the link, but lawmakers in Harrisburg just passed a pilot program for Counties, as part of a bipartisan criminal justice reform package. LV County Execs and other County politicians should be first in line to test this out.