Miami’s murder rate is at a historic low after hitting a historic high in the 1980s. That’s good news, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Other types of crime, including gang-related violence, drug-related assaults, and aggravated burglary, remain at frustratingly high levels in some parts of Miami.
Violent crime is a destructive force but not an unstoppable force. In many cities around the world, there have been major steps forward in limiting the effects of criminal violence. Here are 17 of the most successful methods of reducing violence, based on worldwide studies and national crime statistics.
1. Consider it a Public Health Issue
The first step in addressing violence in a community is to view the problem through the lens of public health. Violence is not just an act; it’s the symptom of deeper problems in communities and individuals.
A study by the University of Queensland found that the most successful programs at preventing violence focused on families and children. Effective strategies include parenting education, interventions with families, early childhood education, and campaigns that focus on the health and wellbeing of people from birth to adulthood.
2. Identify Hotspots and Red Flags
Every city has hotspots, or areas that are known for high violence, gang activity, and drug use. However, crime statistics don’t always red-flag these areas - sometimes, neighborhood crime gets lost in large-scale data across a big city like Miami.
This is why it’s important for every community, big and small, to identify the hotspots of crime in their area. Research in Canada and Brazil has shown that hotspots, or even “hot people” are correlated with high crime. Communities must take an honest look at where, and who, these hot points are.
3. Prioritize Violent Crime
Violent crime can have a corrosive effect on communities, which is why it’s important to put it at the top of the priority list. Non-violent crimes are, of course, important too - but violent crimes make people feel unsafe in their own neighborhoods.
4. Consider Drugs a Warning Sign
Drugs are a frustrating part of violent crime. Just as drugs can drive violence, the “war on drugs” been a driver of violence too. Many anti-violence experts now say the best way to handle the role of drugs is by breaking down taboos that surround them.
5. Assess Gun Control
Gun control is a sensitive issue in America, but cities that are facing high violent crime rates must examine the impact of weapons. Some studies across the world, including the famous example of Australia’s gun ban after a high-profile mass shooting, have shown that it’s possible to severely limit gun deaths by limiting access to guns.
However, an example like Australia can’t necessarily be used for a city like Miami. Laws differ, public attitudes differ, and the causes of gun violence differ too.
6. Avoid Risk-Factor Blindness
Experts warn that communities shouldn’t blindly focus on certain risk factors, because doing so can cause bad conclusions and bad legislation. The classic example is that of gender: Although men are responsible for the vast number of violent incidents, banning men isn’t a reasonable idea.
7. Take Care With Language
Language is important when it comes to defining and preventing violent crime. Some terms are commonly misunderstood by the general public and need to be defined carefully.
For example, “aggravated assault” is an assault committed purposefully or recklessly, by legal definition - but many people assume it’s just an extremely violent assault. And “assault rifle” has no legal meaning, but is quite a hot-button word in the media.
8. Welcome Community Input
Reducing violent crime is much more possible when the community is fully involved as part of the process. Community members should be welcomed: civic leaders, church leaders, organizations, and ordinary citizens. In particular, these key people can help identify Miami’s at-risk youth offenders, so anti-violence programs are as effective as possible.
9. White Collar Crime Leads to Violent Crime Too
Although white-collar crime, like fraud and embezzlement, is generally considered non-violent, it can also be associated with violent crime. Big-city American gangs are increasingly taking part in crimes like identity theft, which can lead to physical confrontations, intimidation, brutality, and even murder.
10. Don’t Forget Terrorism and Explosives
Terrorism, bombings, and use of explosives might not be the first things you think of when you think of community violence, but communities should still have a plan to address them. That was made clear by an event like the Boston bombing, which was unexpected but deeply shook the city.
11. Focus on Prevention
Prevention should be one of the primary goals of any community plan to reduce violence. This has been one of the main ways Cape Town, South Africa has addressed its extremely high rate of violent crime. They’ve gotten to some of the core issues behind violence: lack of economic opportunity, corruption, gang recruitment of young people, lack of mental health treatment.
12. Use Forecasting and Be Proactive
Forecasting is a way to be proactive about violence. For example, in areas where the unemployment rate or poverty is higher, violent crime is more likely to take place. When law enforcement and safety experts use forecasting, they’re better prepared to handle crime.
In this sense, being proactive means offering resources to at-risk people, based on forecasts. For example, in elementary schools where poverty is projected to remain high, community leaders can provide youth opportunities that prevent children from turning to violence.
13. Learn Lessons from Other Cities and History
There are many examples from history, and other cities around the world, that can inform Miami’s crime prevention plan. For example, in the face of extreme citizen violence, the police forces in some parts of India have resorted to committing human rights violations. This isn’t an acceptable solution, and instead continues the cycle of violence.
14. Offer Family Resources
Families are important in preventing violence. When family members and friends intervene, people can be sometimes be stopped from committing many types of violence, including assault, domestic abuse, and - arguably - school shootings. Family resources, including counseling and interventions, should be part of Miami’s plan.
15. Invest in Solid Research
Bad research leads to bad decisions. One famous example is the “broken window theory,” which Rudolph Giuliani used to combat crime in New York City. According to the theory, small crimes like broken windows eventually lead to violent crime because criminals think nobody’s watching.
Unfortunately, the broken window theory is based on flawed research. Some experts now say the theory led many cities to implement poor policies that will affect them for years to come.
16. Explore Digital Solutions
Technology is reshaping both crime and solutions for dealing with crime. While cybercrime is on the rise, digital solutions are too.
Look at a solution like Torch - an app that supports crowdsourced information and anonymous reports to authorities. When someone sees neighborhood crime - a drug deal, mugging, or domestic abuse - they can instantly connect with authorities to report it. That’s a big benefit, especially in gang-dominated communities where people may be scared to speak directly to police.
17. Evaluate, Learn, and Re-evaluate
Finally, the most important way to reduce violent crime is to learn from the community’s mistakes and keep community conversation flowing. Preventing violent crime should be an ongoing process the entire Miami community tackles together.
Download Torch today and help keep Miami safe.