Artful Impact: Just a little patience; Guns will turn to Roses

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Samuel Steinberg Seidel, contributing to GOOD, highlights cases of artists recycling weapons into art.  Check out these pieces from the Guns to Roses elective at Washington DC’s Youth Rehabilitation Services New Beginnings program:

Others, like Guns into Art, helped recovering addicts at Milestones, a drug rehab center in San Francisco, to explore the Cycles of Addiction:

More disarmament from the TAE Project, using AK-47s leftover from the Mozambican Civil War:

Posted on April 2nd 2010 in Artful Impact, OrgWatch

OrgWatch: ShotSpotter targets gunshots with acoustic sensors

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ShotSpotter does pretty much what it’s name implies, but spots via sound.  It’s pretty impressive:

I was originally introduced to this idea by someone at Tactical Philanthropy, who was investing in the technology and spoke about it at NYU’s 2009 Annual Satter Conference on Social Entrepreneurs.

People will claim that, even with these sensors to identify the location of gunshots, the shooters will likely have fled the scene before responders can arrive.  The National Institute of Justice concedes in a report that it is unlikely to lead to more arrests. However, there have been a success stories here and there.

The real long-term benefit, though, is strategic.  Aside from the potential to have quicker response time and even arrests in a few cases, the data itself might help to give a much realer picture of the level of crime some of our cities are facing.  The aforementioned report states that only a dismal 23% of gunshots are ever reported.  Getting these things down on maps and into data models will be a good step towards better law enforcement.

My biggest concern is that police, knowing that a gun is in their vicinity, may get itchier trigger fingers.  But that is an issue of management and discipline, and one we should be constantly perfecting nonetheless.

Posted on January 21st 2010 in OrgWatch

Fewer sticks. Next: tastier carrots

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Finally.  The city signals its intent to rely less on the criminal justice system as a first resort for teens:

The Bloomberg administration plans to merge the city’s Department of Juvenile Justice into its child welfare agency, signaling a more therapeutic approach toward delinquency that will send fewer of the city’s troubled teenagers to jail.

Research, such as the 1998 Department of Justice study on what works in crime prevention, has demonstrated that arresting juveniles for minor offenses can cause them to become more delinquent.  This is something I believe we’ve understood for some time.  As last, someone is acting on it.  The NYTimes outlines the city’s plan:

Juvenile offenders, usually between the ages of 11 and 16, are typically in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice before trial and sentencing. The department, which handles about 5,500 offenders a year, places them in group homes or in one of three detention centers. A judge’s typical options at sentencing are to release offenders on probation or send them to one of the state’s juvenile prisons or residential facilities run by nonprofit organizations.

Under the new plan, city officials will more frequently recommend to a judge that a young person be allowed to return home, provided the family submits to intensive visits by therapists and social workers supervised by the Administration for Children’s Services [ACS].

Of course, this means that we have to make sure ACS has their house in order.  With petty crimes, it is most often an issue of creating a home environment that promotes high expectations, structure and discipline.  When kids turn to crime, they are likely channeling frustration at some deficiency in other support structures.  Kids may steal to compensate for low household income.  They may hang with crowds that provide a familial atmosphere, but lack the expectation-setting and authority needed to influence behavior.  Real crime prevention strategies must look beyond the offender: jobs, schools, extracurriculars, etc.

This is ACS’s burden, and it is far more challenging than tossing teens in jail.  We must focus on these programs and dispense with the ‘soft-on-crime’ stuff that easily creeps into our mayoral elections.

Posted on January 21st 2010 in news
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