It’s Possible to Drive Down Gun Violence Without Increasing Arrests

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Defunding police ideally means shifting more of a city’s budget to social services, and we’ve found yet another reason why that’s a good idea: Doing so helped drive down gun violence in Oakland, California, a city long known for high murder rates.

And I mean it has seriously driven down gun violence. As I reported in a new investigation, shootings in Oakland dropped in half from 2011 to 2017, after Black activists convinced the mayor and local residents to invest more in social services—from job training to housing to life coaching—for men who had shot someone or been a victim of gun violence.

Andre Reed, 37, went through a life-coaching program after he was shot eight times at a party in 2018. His coach, Leonard Haywood, helped him find a job and build confidence. I followed them over the course of about 10 months as Andre got his feet back on the ground after the shooting. Today, they refer to each other as brothers.

One study showed that less than 1 percent of Oakland men who participated in the same life-coaching program were rearrested for another shooting in 2018. And only 10 percent were rearrested for any crime that year. That’s major progress when you consider that nearly three-quarters of California men in their early 20s with juvenile records end up arrested again within a few years of their release from detention.

Shootings are rising again during the pandemic—in Oakland and elsewhere. Even so, the city’s gun homicide rate is still half of what it was before this particular life-coaching program kicked into full gear. Police departments in New York City, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC, have all sent officials to observe Oakland’s model for preventing gun violence. There’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s a promising argument for why investing more in social services can make us safer. Read my full investigation here.

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