Investing in Community-Based Violence Prevention Strategies in Washington, D.C.
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Calls to defund police departments and instead invest in community-based solutions to violence have grown considerably in the wake of the uprisings around George Floyd’s murder. These demands extend to the nation’s capital—Washington, D.C.—where homicide rates have been on an upward trend since 2015, despite having the highest per-capita concentration of police officers compared to any major city in the United States. Violent crime has significant negative impacts on individuals, families, and communities. This capstone examines the potential impact of redirecting $83 million, about a third of the Metropolitan Police Department’s patrol services budget, toward expanding violence interruption and prevention programs in the District. D.C. has initiated a number of violence prevention efforts in recent years, largely through the passage of the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results (NEAR) Act. Though the nascent community-based programs in D.C. have not undergone rigorous evaluation, studies conducted on similar programs in Chicago, New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles find that they are highly effective. Research on the efficacy of increasing police forces as a mechanism to prevent violence produces mixed results, with small effects. Ultimately, this memorandum concludes that the D.C. Council has a moral imperative to back evidence-based approaches to reducing violence, putting the safety of residents first.