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The 2023 Violent Crime Reduction Summit: Innovative Partnerships That Protect Public Safety

More than 1,100 local, state, and federal law enforcement leaders and partners from around the country gathered in Indianapolis December 11–13 to share innovative and promising solutions to one of the most urgent questions they confront: How can we reduce violent crime?

At the 2023 Violent Crime Reduction Summit: Partnerships for Safer Communities—which was sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)--police leaders, prosecutors, and public officials spotlighted an array of programs that utilize new approaches or technologies to bring down crime rates and protect the public. Violence is a huge, complex issue, and only in working together can we reduce it in communities across the country.

Some initiatives rely on ballistics science to identify and target guns used to commit serious crimes. Others create regional task forces that bring together and coordinate multiple law enforcement agency leaders to plan crime reduction activities. And some reach beyond the ranks of traditional law enforcement to work with neighborhood organizations and civilian “street teams,” which function as a kind of community watch in places where violence is prevalent.

All have one thing in common: They are supported by grant funds and training programs provided by BJA.

"We Need to Work Together"

Leaders of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) praised the groundbreaking work being done by organizations that gathered in Indianapolis. DOJ is working to share valuable lessons learned from these programs with law enforcement agencies around the country.

“We are here together today because we know that no one law enforcement agency, no one community, no one town or city can address these challenges on its own. We need each other. We need to work together… We believe that everyone in our country deserves to feel safe and to be safe in our communities.” — U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland

"I want to commend our partners, here in Indianapolis and across the country, for the critical work you are doing to reduce violence and advance safety,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, “whether you are a police officer sworn to protect and serve;, a prosecutor working to keep your community safe; a community leader or service provider dedicated to reaching those in need; or a local leader pledged to safeguard the welfare of your constituents. Your jobs are difficult, they can be dangerous, and make no mistake — they are utterly indispensable.”

Director Moore speaking at the 2023 Violent Crime Reduction Summit
BJA Director Moore

“It is not enough for any of us to pledge to combat violent crime using traditional government means,” said Karhlton F. Moore, Director of BJA. “We must pledge to combat violent crime in a way that is both constitutional and inclusive of the communities we serve. We must understand that the only true way to reach public safety is to co-produce it with the communities we serve."

The Violent Crime Reduction Summit offered concrete examples of how communities that take deliberate and evidence-informed steps can bring down violence. One particularly successful example featured at the summit is a police-community collaborative program started 15 years ago in Omaha, Nebraska.

How Omaha Reduced Violent Crime

The results achieved by Omaha's violence reduction efforts are striking: Since the program began, the number of nonfatal shootings in the city has been cut in half. The number of homicides has been reduced by 40 percent, from 50 in 2015 to 30 in 2022. And the Omaha Police Department has more than doubled its case-clearance rate, clearing an average of 80 percent of all its cases over the past 10 years.

BJA Director and Omaha speakers from the 2023 Violent Crime Reduction Summit
Omaha speakers from the 2023 Violent Crime Reduction Summit

At the same time, complaints against the police were cut in half, and the number of officer-involved shootings fell from 11 in 2010 to 3 in 2022.

Omaha Police Lieutenant Marty Stiles said that the backbone of Omaha's violence reduction efforts is a sustained, intensive effort to build cooperation between local police and community members. For the program’s entire 15-year history, police commanders have met with a broad range of civic leaders once a week. Except during the pandemic, these meetings have been held in person. Today, each meeting usually draws 80–120 people.

"It took a change of mindset," Lieutenant Stiles said. "We operated in a mindset that we needed to stay in our lanes, but then we realized that we can work with the community and develop relationships and move out of an enforcement only mindset."

When the program began, Lieutenant Stiles said, about 90 percent of its focus was on traditional law enforcement activities. "We have progressed to a model of 30-30-30," he said. "We do about 30 percent enforcement, 30 percent intervention, and 30 percent prevention. And that’s really an ideal mix."

BJA Grant Programs That Aim to Reduce Violence

Along with Omaha's violence reduction efforts, the Violent Crime Reduction Summit also featured several programs funded by BJA grants. They include:

  • The Local Law Enforcement Gun Crime Intelligence Center Integration Initiative: BJA helps local agencies establish programs designed to quickly identify firearms used to commit crimes and prosecute the perpetrators. These local initiatives work closely with a national network of Gun Crime Intelligence Centers established by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2016. In the past year, BJA awarded eight of these grants worth a total of $5 million.
  • Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN): Founded in 2001, PSN established regional task forces composed of law enforcement leaders and senior prosecutors. Each task force was led by that area’s chief federal prosecutor or U.S. Attorney.
  • National Public Safety Partnership (PSP): Founded in 2014, PSP also creates regional groups of law enforcement officials but also includes local elected officials to increase community engagement. Along with joint investigations and prosecutions, PSP also supports constitution policing, which requires that law enforcement agencies uphold legal and ethical standards. BJA added five new local PSP programs in 2022, bringing the total number of PSP sites to almost 60.
  • The Rural Violent Crime Reduction Initiative (RVCRI): The program provides funding to small and rural law enforcement agencies that can be used to hire additional officers, improve training, or create new initiatives focused on violent places or neighborhood. In the past year, RVCRI awarded grants to almost 70 agencies.

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Date Published: December 18, 2023