With 10 years of research under its belt, the NNSC reflects on the past while looking forward to a future of safer communities.
by Jocelyn Key
John Jay’s National Network for Safe Communities (NNSC)—a research center aiming to improve public safety, minimize arrests and incarcerations, and strengthen communities—is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. “Our goal has always been to research and create innovations in criminal justice that redefine safety, deliver the gift of safer communities, while building trust and addressing injustice and violence,” says David Kennedy, Director of the NNSC. “Over the past 10 years, the NNSC’s methods have helped to reduce violence and save lives in dozens of cities in the United States and beyond.”
Looking Back On Their Impact
The NNSC has implemented various successful strategies that directly influence crime and violence, a prime example being their Group Violence Intervention (GVI) program, which began in Boston during the 1990s. GVI was designed to reduce both street group-involved homicide and gun violence. Reviewed in a 2016 Harvard Celebrates 10 Years study by Thomas Abt and Christopher Winship, the GVI was compared to 30 other reduction approaches and was found to have the largest direct impact on crime and violence. “This GVI approach has been employed by the NYPD under the name Ceasefire, and created historic reduction in crime and violence within New York City,” says Kennedy. And, GVI has had a profound impact on a number of other cities across the U.S. “In 2011, the year before GVI was implemented, New Haven, Connecticut had a homicide count of 27. In 2017, this number decreased to six,” says Kennedy. “In Chicago, GVI led to a 23 percent reduction in overall shooting behavior. In Boston, GVI was responsible for a 36.4 percent reduction in gang-involved shootings.” And Kennedy attributes the National Initiative for Building Trust and Justice (NI)—a program that addresses racial reconciliation, procedural justice, and implicit bias—to improving relationships between historically harmed communities and police.
Moving Forward To Safer Days
Eager to continue impacting communities, the NNSC has many recent projects and new projects on the horizon. At NNSC Director David Kennedy speaking with community members in South Bend. At the March 2019 symposium, the NNSC officially launched its Police-Community Reconciliation Initiative. “The aim is to rebuild trust between police and communities by acknowledging the role that law enforcement has played in the history of racial violence in the U.S. and changing the policies that stemmed from racialized policing,” says Kennedy. “The process included discussions between law enforcement and community members about how traditional law enforcement has been both ineffective and damaging.”
The NNSC is also working on new action-research projects focusing on opioids, police-community reconciliation, and police discretion under their Field Innovations portfolio. With their biannual National Criminal Justice Conference this June, the NNSC will commemorate their 10th Anniversary. “When we decided to form the National Network for Safe Communities in 2009, it was because the larger community needed a concerted national effort,” says Kennedy. “Seeing our violence prevention frameworks get implemented all over the U.S. and internationally, shows that John Jay can be justifiably proud of the contribution it is making to producing public safety in more just and effective ways. The success of our work has made the past 10 years well worth it, and makes us hopeful for the future.”