Opinion: Traditional, costly policing can’t make needed dent in rising crime

To effectively address and maintain reductions in crime, we must confront its root causes.
September 13, 2021 Atlanta: Homicide detectives are investigating after a man was fatally shot on I-85 North early Monday morning, Sept. 13, 2021. The victim pulled off the interstate and was on the shoulder near Metropolitan Parkway when officers responded to a report of a person shot about 4:20 a.m. They found the man with "multiple gunshot wounds," according to Atlanta police. The man, whose name was not released, was rushed into surgery in critical condition and later died at a hospital. The circumstances surrounding the shooting are unclear. The death is the latest in a string of shootings on Atlanta roads and highways. At least 45 shootings have taken place on the roads this year, killing 15 people and injuring others. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

September 13, 2021 Atlanta: Homicide detectives are investigating after a man was fatally shot on I-85 North early Monday morning, Sept. 13, 2021. The victim pulled off the interstate and was on the shoulder near Metropolitan Parkway when officers responded to a report of a person shot about 4:20 a.m. They found the man with "multiple gunshot wounds," according to Atlanta police. The man, whose name was not released, was rushed into surgery in critical condition and later died at a hospital. The circumstances surrounding the shooting are unclear. The death is the latest in a string of shootings on Atlanta roads and highways. At least 45 shootings have taken place on the roads this year, killing 15 people and injuring others. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

We cannot effectively address Atlanta’s skyrocketing crime rates simply by employing old tactics which have failed to work in the past. The mayor has proposed hiring 250 additional police officers, expanding the city’s video surveillance and license plate reader systems, and adding 10,000 more streetlights by Dec. 31, 2022. State leaders suggest an increase of 20 additional state troopers within the city and doubling the size of Georgia’s gang and human trafficking task forces.

These are ambitious efforts that come with a high price tag and, based upon historical evidence, would yield scant results. Much more is needed, and it is needed now.

In the words of Atlanta Assistant Police Chief Todd Coyt, “We know we cannot arrest ourselves out of this problem. Law enforcement is only part of the big picture.” He is correct. Arrests and incarceration have done little to stem crime or reduce recidivism. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s citizens are faced with an increasingly heavier tax burden to pay not only for the costs of housing, clothing, food and medical care of those who are detained, but also for picking up their share of the costs of other essential public services.

Kate Boccia

Credit: contributed

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Credit: contributed

The result is a never-ending cycle of playing “catch up” that traditional reactions to crime have proven inadequate to fix. We cannot solve complex problems with simple sound bites. To effectively address and maintain reductions in crime, we must confront its root causes.

The National Incarceration Association supports evidence-based efforts to end the astronomical economic and social costs of mass incarceration, building models of restoration and rehabilitation which facilitate true justice and changing mindsets and behaviors to address the root causes of crime that achieve actual results.

Gov. Brian Kemp has proposed to merge the work of the House Public Safety Committee with “solutions from other concerned stakeholders,” when he calls for a special session of the General Assembly this fall. The National Incarceration Association is in a unique position to add value to such a committee as one of those stakeholders.

When we become involved with initiatives like those proposed by the mayor and governor, our aim is to elevate the voices of those who have been impacted most by existing laws and bring forth empirical evidence to the work of our policymakers. Let us demonstrate how community partnership can work effectively to advance common interests which yield measured results and benefit all.

Kate Boccia, of Alpharetta, is founder and CEO of the nonprofit National Incarceration Association.

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