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Action Research and the Community to Criminal Justice Feedback Loop

Edward Davis, Police Commissioner, Boston Police Department, MA
NIJ Conference 2011
June 20-22

Edward Davis Action research has made all the difference in our department. First of all with all the experimentation that occurred in Boston in the 1990s—the Cease Fire project and all of the lessons learned from targeted enforcement and also from making strong links with the community. In addition to that, Anthony Braga has been Policy Advisor to me since I've been there. He's continued a series of studies and experiments in Boston that have really informed our deployment decisions day in and day out. We know that there is a small number of city blocks that's responsible for a significant number of the shootings. There's a spine of the city that runs down Blue Hill Avenue and then heads over to Jamaica Plain, where all of the shootings are occurring. We've deployed special teams—violence reduction teams—into those areas. And the hot spots that we've identified in those areas have been responsible for reductions in overall crime in the city of almost 20 percent in four years. So we're very happy with the information that we're garnering from Anthony's work and from other research in the field, and we put it to use daily.

I really think that the work that Rob Sampson has done in opening the door up to this collective efficacy question and trust with the community, you know, everybody knows that trust is good. But how do you establish trust? What is it exactly that people want you to do make them feel better about the police department? Clearly our arrests have gone down in neighborhoods where crime has gone down. We're not using that sort of hook 'em and book 'em mentality that was prevalent years ago. But what we are paying attention to is the message that we're sending to people, outreach through social media, for instance, Text a Tip program where anonymous people can call in and tell us what's happening. You have to be available to people, and they have to see results. They have to understand that when they call you, and they ask you to do something, that something comes from that. So that feedback loop is extremely important. And we're doing that in many different ways.

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Edward Davis, Police Commissioner, Boston Police Department, Mass,
NIJ Conference
June 2011

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Date created: October 24, 2011