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Reducing Violence: A Providence Success Story

Speaking of the Capital City, Providence has enjoyed some impressive success in reducing violent crime, a topic I take up in this week's Phoenix:

Every year, as summer approaches in US cities, violent crime spikes as predictably as the arrival of Memorial Day cookouts. The bloodshed is well under way in some places, including Boston, which after enjoying remarkable success in reducing violence in the late 1990s, has recorded 20 murders so far this year, after 75 last year, mostly in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
 
Providence, by contrast, has bucked a trend in which the number of violent crimes is increasing in many American cities. There were 11 murders in the city in 2006 — half the number of the previous year — and the fewest since 1971. And while Providence this week experienced its third homicide of 2007, its number of major crimes dropped 30 percent from 2002 to 2006, according to police figures, and the most serious violent crimes fell by 27 percent over the same period.
 
While the police and others monitoring the situation remain guarded, knowing how things could quickly change for the worse, Providence’s collaborative, multi-faceted approach to reducing violence has attracted interest from other communities around New England, including Boston, New Haven, and New Bedford. (The topic is slated for discussion as part of a conference May 21 and 22, featuring George Kelling, co-author of the “Broken Windows” theory, at Roger Williams University in Bristol.)
 
The success is all the more striking given how Providence, according to US Census data, is tied with New Orleans as the third-poorest city for children in America.

We can only hope that this reduction in violence will be sustained over time. To their credit, the key players -- including the Providence Police Department and the street workers based at the Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence -- recognize the importance of staying focused.

As I write in the story, Mayor Cicilline deserves credit for helping to bring about a transformation in the PPD, and likewise, Dean Esserman helped to make it happen.

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