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Does Public Favor Community Investments To Fight Crime?

From political ads to local news, Americans hear a lot about crime. Over the last 50 years, at least 1 in 4 Americans believe crime is worse than the year before, although violent crime rates generally have been declining for decades. That hasn't stopped Americans from worrying, reports Scripps News. "The public and the politicians kind of feed off of each other and reinforce each other," said Kevin Wozniak, a lecturer in criminology at Maynooth University. In 2022, Republican candidates focused on crime. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her party lost control of the House in part because New York Democrats' didn't effectively address voters' concerns on the issue. Crime, and how politicians talk about it, can be crucial in local elections. In this year's Chicago mayoral race, 44% of voters said crime and public safety was a top concern. The two runoff candidates, Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas, proposed different solutions. Vallis wanted to put more money into the Chicago Police Department. Johnson campaigned on tackling the root causes of crime, like improving mental health resources and creating new youth employment opportunities. Voters backed Johnson.

Wozniak said, "I think a lot of scholars, a lot of journalists and a lot of politicians really, really underestimated that public appetite for investing into communities so that communities themselves could help fight and prevent crime." Wozniak says much of the existing research about crime is too simplistic. Asking questions like "Do you support the death penalty?" or "Do you agree with defunding the police?" are too broad. Wozniak wanted to see how people reacted when given a more complex choice: If you were in charge of making your own crime prevention budget, would you give more money to police and prisons? Or would you invest in community institutions? A majority, both whites and Blacks, tend to prefer either a balanced budget, where they would roughly split their hypothetical money between criminal justice institutions and community-based institutions, and many would invest most or all of their money into community institutions, said Wozniak.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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