“The Brooklyn recovery seems more striking than other boroughs,” Dr. Butts said. “The Brooklyn spike is horrendous when you look at it over time. But the most recent quarter, the data point is back to where it’s been bouncing around for the past 15 years.”
“Sadly, I’ve dedicated my life to using facts and data to influence crime policy. I don’t think we’re any better at it than we were 30 years ago,” Butts said. He has seen both Democrats and Republicans try to use crime stats to scare voters. It’s hard to stop them because “politics was way out ahead of information and the facts.”
Progressive-minded criminologists like Roman or Butts are boosters of community antiviolence intervention programs such as the Cure Violence model, in which more mature people from the neighborhood work as “violence interrupters” and seek to mediate disputes or defuse tensions before they get out of hand.
"We were already in a weakened condition when the pandemic hit -- class divisions, overt racism, partisanship, a really poor social support infrastructure -- so if you think about the effect of the pandemic on an 'epidemic' of shootings -- it's like the immune system of the United States was already suppressed," Jeffrey Butts, director of the research and evaluation center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told ABC News.
Experts caution that while law enforcement is a vital part of public safety, police should be one part in a larger package of solutions. There are well-tested methods that decrease violence, but implementing them at scale will require patience, nuance, and a willingness to think past political narratives.
Jeffrey Butts: "Researchers can at least eliminate possible explanations. So, you can look at data and test hypotheses. One hypothesis that has been around (you alluded to it) is that it’s somehow related to Defunding the Police. So, there have been researchers who have looked at police budgets, and changes from year to year... and there’s really no relationship there.”