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Ballot Box Buzz: Crime on the Ballot in 2024


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Americans are on edge when it comes to personal safety.  A notable shift in the discourse surrounding crime is the fading prominence of calls to defund the police. Admittedly, in the height of the defund the police craze, we could not find anyone in real life who supported this nonsensical plan.  We saw people marching and chanting “defund the police'' on television, but like a mythical unicorn, we had never met anyone with such views in person. As fate would have it, while filming in Washington, D.C. we had a chance encounter with a young woman on the National Mall who, with a straight face passionately advocated for defunding the police. You can catch her perspective, shared in an interview during the upcoming fifth season of our podcast Policy & Pound Cake.


We listened in wonderment as a highly educated law student made her case for the complete abolition of the police, all while the unmistakable wail of police sirens echoed in the background. We found ourselves pausing the cameras multiple times, allowing the blare of sirens to subside before resuming our discussion.  Again, few are advocating for the police to be abolished.  However, the debate rages on the amount of funding the police should receive and how those funds should be allocated. 


The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)  America's largest nonpartisan organization of state legislators has crafted model policies focused on reducing crime, with a particular emphasis on addressing violent crime. We have worked with ALEC to amplify their solutions, particularly solutions like ALEC's model policies advocating for the full funding of the police and reduction of violent crime. 


Studying ALEC’s research on model policies reveals an overemphasis by some jurisdictions on such punitive measures as fines, fees, and forfeitures which can erode the crucial relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Fines, fees and forfeitures create a cycle of chaos for the poor and serve as merely a slap on the wrist for the wealthy.   An approach is necessary that prioritizes community engagement and trust-building over punitive measures that disproportionately impact marginalized communities.


As we look to local and federal elections, our ballots will be buzzing about candidates who understand the power of focused deterrence.  Focused deterrence is a common sense strategy that has seen great success in reducing crimes in cities like Boston and Dallas.  Operation Ceasefire in Boston and Dallas's focused deterrence strategy, which demonstrate significant reductions in youth homicides and overall crime rates. These localized and highly collaborative efforts underscore the effectiveness of a community-oriented evidence based approach to reducing crime.


In a resolution on crime strategies, ALEC points to a 2021 study that reveals “that 500 identifiable people in Washington, DC are responsible for 60-70% of all gun violence in the city.”


ALEC's data-driven approach sheds light on the concentrated nature of violent crime, often confined to specific areas and perpetrated by a small segment of the population. This prompts us to advocate for resource allocation that prioritizes specific individuals and areas, aligning with ALEC's call for focused deterrence.  


We would be naive if we didn’t foresee the challenges that will come from a more rigorous police presence in areas of violent high crime.  These areas are often low-income and minority where there is already an erosion of trust between the residents and police forces.  With this truth also comes the importance of community policing.  Better educated police officers, better trained police officers and police officers who come from the communities they serve have produced better results in reducing crime.


The goal is safe communities and we must vote for solutions that are driven by evidence not emotion.  Evidence clearly shows that reducing police budgets does not work.  Evidence shows that increasing police budgets through punitive fines does not work.  The evidence does however show that success comes when police departments concentrate on the small number of residents committing the vast majority of violent crimes.


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Dee Dee Bass Wilbon and Deana Bass Williams are sisters and co-founders of Bass Public Affairs, the nation's premier public affairs firm dedicated to advancing diversity of thought, free speech and civil discourse in the African American community. The Bass Sisters are recipients of the Douglass Leadership Institute's Frederick Douglass Leadership Award and WKYS 93.9's Lifetime Achievement Award.

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