With gun violence on the rise, cities across the U.S. must urgently adopt strategies to suppress it
NEW YORK, NY – The nation is facing a surge of gun violence, and the public wants solutions. Here in New York, shootings nearly doubled between 2019 and 2020, and voters in the Democratic primary for mayor turned to former NYPD captain Eric Adams—a man who, in a joint appearance with Governor Cuomo, recently emphasized the importance of consequences for criminal behavior.
Too often, those consequences are lacking, even for the most serious crimes: About four in ten homicides go unsolved nationwide. When crimes go unpunished, police departments miss their chance to hold offenders accountable, deter future criminal activity, provide justice to victims, and build public trust.
Fortunately, however, there are proven ways to improve these numbers. In a new report for the Manhattan Institute, University of Pennsylvania professor Anthony A. Braga draws from his experience as an advisor to the Boston Police Department (BPD) in its efforts to increase clearance rates for shootings.
Braga devised strategies to help the BPD improve its clearance rate for fatal shootings, which was about 47 percent in the years directly prior to the project and rose to 66 percent following Braga’s intervention. The changes included increased manpower, improved training, and standardized protocols.
Braga has also analyzed data on Boston’s non-fatal shootings, which tend to be cleared far less frequently than homicides are. (Clearance rates for non-fatal shootings in 2016 sat at 17 percent in San Francisco, 15 percent in Los Angeles, and an abysmal 12 percent in violence-torn Chicago, for example.) Braga shows that fatal and non-fatal shootings are similar in their circumstances and characteristics, and makes a strong case that solving more non-fatal shootings will translate into overall violence reduction. He further notes that some cities have improved their clearance rates for non-fatal shootings through the use of dedicated investigative units.
The recommendations Braga outlines for improving clearance rates in both fatal and non-fatal shootings are grounded in empirical findings, and, with shootings on the rise, warrant urgent consideration by policymakers and police departments across the country.