tough on crime: why it doesn't work and what DOES work (aka why bringing the national guard to dc is dumb)

Wednesday, August 9, 2023


D.C.'s ward 8 council member has called on the mayor to join him in requesting the national guard come help fight crime. This is an interesting (🥴)  solution considering the [lack of] data supporting "tough on crime" solutions like this. So let's talk about it.

For context: crime in D.C. has gotten bad. Like up 25% since last year bad. And the offenders are increasingly younger - police have arrested kids as young as 11 (ELEVEN) for violent car jackings. Anyone in education knew there would be an uptick in youth crime as a result of COVID school closures with zero planning for kids living in poverty without access to internet (in D.C.'s poorest wards only 45% of families have access to broadband), food, or safe spaces. And to be clear this isn't on teachers or school administrators who spent the pandemic doing the best they could with no resources. Teachers and administrators are not responsible for policy or funding allocation, this is all on the highly paid district and government officials.

Let's talk about this in three parts:

Part 1: why is it dumb and a complete waste of resources to even TALK about bringing in the national guard to fight crime?

Besides the fact that they wouldn't even show up for the January 6 insurrection so good luck getting them to show up for this, study after study after study show that despite the US spending $1 trillion on tough-on-crime measures, increased number of police does not deter crime. Our own Department of Justice says

Looking at number of police per 1,000 population; crime rate; and crime rate ranking for 26 major cities fails to reveal consistent relationships among these variables.

Part 2: what are they going to do? Put more people in prison? Make more arrests? Once again ALL the data say threat of punishment does not deter crime. 

The US has a 70% recidivism rate, meaning 70% of people return to prison within a few years of release - and these are just the people who get caught a second (or third or fourth) time. So why doesn't the threat of punishment and harsher sentences work? 

According to the BBC:

  • Studies have shown that criminals tend to value their futures less, making harsher sentences arbitrary
  • Studies have also shown that people with lower education levels are less deterred by harsh sentences
  • Experts say criminals believe they will not be caught - even after being caught once they do not expect to be caught again. This expectation means they do not expect to serve prison sentences.
Crime as a result of a public health crisis:
  • 60% of incarcerated people have at least one diagnosed mental illness
  • 50-60% of offenders have a traumatic brain injury
  • 80% of offenders suffer from substance abuse disorder
  • There is a strong and heavily researched relationship between poverty and neurodevelopment
Part 3: what can we do about crime?

The key to reducing crime is preventing it, not punishing it. We need consistent, well-funded, long term strategies (meaning when we don't see results right away we can't just drop it - systemic change takes time).  This research paper has an intensive list with supporting data, case studies, and examples. Here is a brief, very summarized list:
  • Access to health care and treatment
  • Community violence intervention: trained professionals to intervene and de-escalate violent conflicts, and provides wraparound services to those who have a high risk of violence.
  • Civilian crisis response: 20% of 911 calls are related to mental illness or substance abuse which police are not equipped to handle. Trained non police (social workers etc)
  • Economic opportunity and housing security: loans, housing programs, job placement and upskilling programs.
  • youth employment and skill building programs
  • Youth programming: Programs to support students’ social and emotional well-being have been found to reduce total arrests by as much as 35%, violent crime arrests by as much as 50%, and youth recidivism by 21%
  • High-quality education and school-based violence prevention
  • Investment in environment and community spaces 
You know what comes next. Local elections matter so much in this area - please research your local elections, reach out to your local candidates for their stance on these issues, and vote for the ones who will help prevent crime. And have these conversations with your people, make sure they understand the power of their votes and of these policies. 

1 comment :

  1. When my boyfriend broke up with me 4 weeks ago..

    I did everything to get my boyfriend back but nothing worked.

    I contacted a relationship doctor i saw online.

    I told the relationship doctor everything,

    He promised to fix my relationship problem.

    I am the happiest lady on earth right now,

    Never too late to fix your broken heart.

    You can still get your lover back...

    Fix broken relationship/marriage...

    My relationship was restored as promised,

    My Ex-boyfriend came back,

    He promised never to leave me again

    Everything happened just in 3 days..

    I RECOMMEND YOU TO __________________

    Thanks Robinsonbuckler11 (@) gmail com


    Doris Bowen


Love to hear your thoughts and opinions, let's chat!