BUILDING SAFE COMMUNITIES WHERE OPPORTUNITIES THRIVE

PUBLIC SAFETY

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WHAT IS PUBLIC SAFETY?

At its most fundamental level, public safety is the protection of the physical welfare of the general public. It’s government’s first responsibility, and something all humans want. When public safety exists, people can move about their neighborhoods without the fear of victimization. This freedom is a necessary condition for empowering vibrant communities where every person has opportunities to flourish.

GCO’s Atlanta Crime Report offers six policy solutions to curb violence in Atlanta and restore community safety.

Communities Are Suffering from Declining Public Safety

This decline can trap communities in what feels like endless cycles of crime and poverty. Over the past few years, that’s exactly what has happened in many communities in Georgia and across the country.

CRIME TRENDS

Across the Country

  • The U.S. murder rate went up 30% between 2019-2020. That’s the largest single-year jump in the last 100 years.

  • In rural communities, murder rates went up 25% during the pandemic. 


  • On average, gang members are responsible for 48% of violent crime in most areas.

  • Gangs account for about 0.5% of the population and are responsible for 70% of homicide and gun violence.

    • Four million children live in communities that their parents deem unsafe. 

    In Georgia

    • Since 2018, violent crime and murder have been rising In Atlanta. 

    • Georgia’s violent crime increased 17.4% between 2019 and 2020. 

    • Atlanta has had 90 murders or more every year since 2018.

    • There are 1,500 suspected gang networks across the state.

    WHY IS PUBLIC SAFETY IMPORTANT?

    5 Ways Rising Crime Harms Communities

    • Cuts lives short and leaves grieving families and fractured communities behind. 
    • Leads to more social isolation in communities with a high rate of violence.   
    • Exposure to community violence negatively impacts children’s educational and behavioral outcomes. 
    • Growing up in a community with a high rate of violence can negatively affect the cognitive development of children. 
    • Nationally, crime costs victims and taxpayers between $2.6 trillion and $5.8 trillion annually. About 85% of that cost stems from violent crime.

    “MY SON IS DEFINITELY WORTH THAT FIGHT”

    The tragic story of Christian Gwynn who was fatally shot as a result of violence is a wake-up call to the need for change in policies that will reduce urban violence.

    Public Safety benefits for Communities

    community people
    • Families and individuals can go to school, work, and access community spaces without fear of harm to themselves or their property.
    • More economic opportunity.
    • Higher levels of connection and trust with neighbors.
    • More trust between police and residents.  
    • Better physical and mental well-being.  
    • Improved academic outcomes for children.

    THE LINK BETWEEN PUBLIC SAFETY & POVERTY

    Controlling crime is important for all communities, but it is especially critical in communities struggling with poverty and other disadvantages. Declining public safety perpetuates cycles of poverty by:

     

    • Stealing job opportunities: Businesses in communities with increasing crime will stop growing, scale back, and leave altogether. When crime forces businesses to move out, job opportunities leave with them.

    • Reducing access to affordable food and household items: When crime drives away businesses, communities lose access to affordable goods and services, creating more hardship for people already struggling to meet basic needs.

    • Discouraging work: Direct victimization is associated with higher rates of unemployment and nonproductivity at work.

       

    • Lowering neighborhood and home values: Increased homicides in a neighborhood have both immediate and lasting impacts on home prices, devaluing them.

       

    • Increasing the risk of poverty for future generations: Children born in the bottom quartile of income are less upwardly mobile in communities that experience increases in violence. Reducing that violence makes them more upwardly mobile.

    8 Policy Solutions to
    Restore Public Safety

    Address Community Disrepair

    Expand efforts to clean up and repair communities, tear down or renovate abandoned buildings, and enhance street lighting. 

    Invest in a Well-Trained Police Force

    More police on the street means less crime. Every dollar spent on law enforcement produces even more in social benefits, mostly from reduced murders.

    build trust

    Build Trust by Protecting Victims

    Protect victims’ rights with the ongoing implementation of Marsy’s Law and introduce police-based victim services in local departments. This will help restore trust in the system among crime victims. 

    Address Gang Violence

    Focus law enforcement on the small number of offenders driving violent crime. ‘Focused deterrence’ strategies have been shown to substantially reduce gang-related shootings and homicides.

    Chalk outline

    Homicide Detectives & Clearance Rates

    Homicides have increased sharply in recent years while homicide units have not. Increase funding and staffing in homicide units to ensure detectives are the primary investigator in a number of cases in line with best practice. 

    police escorting person

    Sentencing

    Ensure violent and serious offenders are serving the prison time warranted by their offense and criminal history. ‘Gang sentence enhancements’ are a narrowly tailored way to ensure violent gang members serve their time. 

    Juvenile Justice Reforms

    Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to substantially reduce recidivism among juvenile gang members. Implementing programs inside and outside of juvenile detention centers can help gang-affiliated juveniles get back on a positive life course before they become serious offenders. 

    Evaluate & Update Re-Entry Programs

    Routinely evaluate re-entry programs to see if they are successfully reducing recidivism. Implement and experiment with successful re-entry programs that focus on gang and high risk offenders. 

    Public Safety Resources for States

    Georgia Outline

    Georgia

    Atlanta, Georgia

    How to Reduce Crime in Atlanta

    Analysis and steps to understand the issue of crime in Atlanta and practical policies to address it.

    Youth In Handcuffs

    A path that could reduce Atlanta’s juvenile crime

    A look at juvenile offending in Atlanta and the well-documented ways to reduce that kind of offending that impacts the youth in our communities.

    Columbus Georgia

    How to Reduce Crime in Columbus

    Our Columbus Crime Report details six practical solutions that city leaders can use to reduce crime in Columbus and restore safety, hope, and opportunity to the broader community. 

    The Columbus Empowerment Network focuses on public safety solutions that will stop crime from being a barrier to economic opportunity.

    Columbus Empowerment Network

    Cure Violence Columbus and the Georgia Center For Opportunity are bringing together Columbus, GA, community leaders in a local collaboration to address the violence and expand economic opportunity in underserved communities.

    Other STATES

    CALIFORNIA

    Best practices for reducing crime can empower California to build safer communities through policy.

    California's Skyrocketing Crime: How it happened and what to do about it

    There has been a concerning increase in violent crime and homicide rates in California.

    MASSACHUSETTS

    Youth in Handcuffs

    Getting Serious About Juvenile Violence in Boston

     While Boston is heralded as the model of violent crime reduction, juvenile violent crime has been on the rise of late, and it is time to address the problem.

    TENNESSEE

    Memphis

    Creating a path forward to reduce juvenile crime in Memphis

    Policy solutions similar to those enacted this year in Louisville, Kentucky can help Memphis move forward and create a safer community and a more just and fair

    WASHINGTON

    Photo of coroner looking at murder victim

    Why Seattle's murder rate has surged against national decline

    A new report reveals Seattle’s murder rate defied national trends with a 13% increase in homicides in 2022. 

    OUR PUBLIC SAFETY STAFF

    Josh Crawford

    Director of Criminal Justice Initiatives

    Josh Crawford is a native of Massachusetts. He went to Penn State for his undergraduate degree and then finished law school in Boston. After a brief stint in Sacramento, California, working in the county district attorney’s office, Josh moved to Kentucky to help start the Pegasus Institute, a nonpartisan organization designed to promote opportunity. In addition to serving as executive director of the organization, Josh had a special focus on criminal justice policy.

    “By focusing on public safety and order, we can restore hope and opportunity to rural communities.”

    Download Fortifying Pathways

    Download Fortifying Pathways

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    DownloadGeorgia School Choice Handbook

    DownloadGeorgia School Choice Handbook

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    Deep Red Valleys Report

    Deep Red Valleys Report

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    Georgia's Welfare System Reference Guide

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    An Alternative To Incarceration

    An Alternative To Incarceration

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    A High Price To Pay

    A High Price To Pay

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    Increasing Employment Opportunities For Ex-Offenders

    Increasing Employment Opportunities For Ex-Offenders

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    Prisoner Reentry | The State of Corrections

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    Prisoner Reentry

    Prisoner Reentry

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    Increasing Access to Quality Healthcare for Low-Income Uninsured Georgians

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    Disincentives for Work and Marriage in Georgia's Welfare System White Paper

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    Disincentives for Work and Marriage in Georgia's Welfare SystemExecutive Summary

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