Meeting Bulletin #1: Convening the Violent Crime Working Group

At First Meeting, Group Refines Mission, Identifies Values

This week, the Council convened the first meeting of the Violent Crime Working Group, a diverse group of experts dedicated to confronting the most urgent problems associated with violent crime and addressing them with concrete solutions. The Group will release bulletins like this one updating the public on its progress on a rolling basis, coupling recommendations for policy and practice with relevant links to research, programs, and funding. In addition, the Group will produce independent research on crime trends like the report released today and hold public briefings on a select set of key topics.

Group members are divided evenly between three groups: those working in government to reduce violent crime, those working outside government to do the same, and those studying the issue in academia. Some members are police officers, others provide community-based care and services. Some have backgrounds in criminology, others are trained in public health. Many members have faced violent crime firsthand, with lived experiences that inform their work today. Members are diverse in terms of geography, age, gender, and race.

All members are committed to the Group’s mission, which is to save lives by improving policy and practice concerning violent crime by producing guidance that is timely, relevant, reliable, and accessible, and by urging policymakers and practitioners to rely on this guidance. While all forms of violent crime will be considered, the majority of the Group’s time will be devoted to the specific challenge of community gun violence that appears to be driving recent spikes in shootings and killings.

At the Group’s introductory meeting, members discussed the values that will inform their work together as well as their guidance to the field, agreeing broadly on the following four principles:

  1. Problem- and solution-focused. A sharp focus on identifying problems and proposing solutions is necessary to combat the recent rise in violent crime. Members will consider issues related to narrative, terminology, and messaging, but their emphasis will be on providing immediate assistance to leaders in the field facing difficult decisions today.
  2. Evidence-informed. Rigorous evidence is critical to better understanding the complex challenge posed by violent crime, as well as potential solutions. Members nevertheless acknowledge that the current body of evidence is limited and therefore innovation must be encouraged to further develop and expand knowledge in this area.
  3. Community-engaged. Public safety is co-produced by the state in cooperation with its citizens. Government, particularly law enforcement, cannot maintain order on its own. Members recognize the importance of engaging with impacted communities generally, but particularly with those individuals who are most frequently and directly exposed to crime and violence.
  4. Humanity-centered. It is essential to reaffirm the humanity of all those impacted by crime and violence, as sustainably maintaining peace and order requires acknowledging difficult truths, building trust, and promoting reconciliation. Recognizing that past policies addressing violent crime significantly and disproportionately harmed many in the nation’s most disadvantaged communities, members will approach their work humbly, being mindful of the human impacts of all proposed policies in order to minimize harm.

In upcoming meetings, members will investigate specific problems and potential solutions, including but not limited to the following:

  • Reviewing non-enforcement, community-based strategies for reducing gun violence, including cognitive behavioral therapy, targeted street outreach, and focused deterrence;
  • Assessing law enforcement anti-crime approaches, including proactive and community policing as well as efforts to improve homicide clearance rates;
  • Exploring the evolving nature of violent crime, with a special emphasis on the role of social media; and
  • Building a stronger anti-violence infrastructure capable of coordinating and implementing multiple strategies simultaneously.

At the next meeting, members will examine recent trends in violent crime and consider the sometimes competing explanations for them including the coronavirus pandemic, unrest related to police violence, increasing firearm sales, and others. The Group is also holding a public webinar on the same topic on August 3rd from 12-1 pm Eastern.