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Do Voters' Views on Public Safety Go Beyond The Role of Police?

As the crime problem continues to rank among voters’ pressing concerns, policymakers want to propose solutions that voters believe will make them safer. Policymakers long have equated public safety with policing, says the advocacy group Safer Cities. More recently, they have adopted a more expansive and nuanced definition of public safety that includes efforts to promote public health and to create social and economic security and stability


Practices such as community violence interrupters, behavioral health interventions, and safe housing often have been viewed as critical components of public safety.


Safer Cities say changes in how voters understand public safety "have been rapid and evolving."


To test how voters understand public safety, Safer Cities conducted a survey of 1,185 likely voters nationally, using a sample representative of likely voters by age, gender, education, race, and voting history.


People were asked how effective they believed certain policies are in making communities safer.


Among the results:


-- 78 percent backed solving serious crimes like rapes, shootings, and murders to ensure that people who commit crimes are held accountable and to deter would-be criminals.


-- 73 percent supported ensuring that places where people shop and live are properly lit to deter muggings and thefts by making would-be criminals more visible and less likely to successfully commit a crime.


-- 66 percent favored creating a robust police presence in high crime areas, especially in places with open-air drug dealing, gun violence, and gang activity, to deter would-be criminals.


-- 58 percent OK'd ensuring access to mental health and addiction treatment, factors that contribute to crime, to reduce the risk that people suffering from these conditions commit crimes.


-- 54 percent rated as effective ensuring that families have access to safe and affordable housing, which has been seen to reduce crimes attributed to desperation, especially property, theft, and drug-related crimes.


-- 34 percent called effective "creating economic stability for families by providing a guaranteed income, to reduce crimes borne out of desperation, especially property, theft, and drug-related crimes."


The organization concluded from the survey that, "it’s clear voters overall are gaining a more expansive understanding of 'public safety,' one that recognizes that law enforcement cannot do it alone."