Recent local incidents have sparked
The Idea of Crime and Violence As Epidemic
Defined as a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time, an epidemic (outbreak, plague, scourge, or infestation) is a term that is typically used to describe any problem that has grown out of control. When facing health epidemics, medical officials must conduct field investigations in order to guide an effective response to address the outbreak. According to Zack Moore, MD, MPH of the North Carolina Division of Public Health, field investigations are conducted in order to:
- Identify the source (and eliminate it)
- Develop strategies to prevent future outbreaks
- Evaluate existing prevention strategies
- Address public concern (North Carolina Division of Public Health)
Viewed as an epidemic, any response to crime must take into account the local conditions of the community which is impacted. More often than not, solutions have been sought in the criminal justice system, but is traditional policing actually reducing crime and violence?
What if we looked closely at those things that continue to drive crime and violence—things like poverty, inequality, drug and alcohol dependency, and mental health—in order to devise strategies to prevent crime and violence? What if we rigorously and independently evaluated the existing strategies used to address crime and violence in order to determine their effectiveness?
The World Health Organization’s Guidance on Violence Prevention promotes violence prevention and believes that the impact of violence can be reduced in the same way that public health efforts have prevented and reduced other health epidemics. “The factors that contribute to violence and crime—whether they are factors of attitude and behavior or related to larger social, economic, political and cultural conditions—can be changed.”
To be effective, any public health approach to crime and violence requires a degree of strategy, support from
Research Shows Violence is Concentrated Among Groups & Group Members
Stephen Lurie, Alexis Acevedo, and Kyle Ott with the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the city of New
Perhaps the most important thing Lurie wrote is this: “Crucially, focusing on groups offers an explanation for homicides and shootings in ways that other theories have not. . . While violence is concentrated in very particular places, it’s not the places themselves that are committing homicides.
Rather, to understand violence, our research points again to the context, norms, and dynamics of street groups. Street groups involved in violence are generally composed of young men of color living in communities with long histories of structural discrimination and alienation from state institutions, particularly law enforcement. These areas have generally suffered from both over-enforcement and under-protection.”
What To Do?
The good news is that the violence as
What we know is that enforcement alone will not solve the problem. Everyone must be a part of designing and working towards solutions which divert people away from criminal activity by supporting the vulnerable and providing better life opportunities.