June 30, 2018

Cities have gotten safer

Center for Court Innovation - In his 2018 book, Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, The Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence, sociologist Patrick Sharkey traces the many effects of the remarkable reduction in crime that has taken place in the United States since the 1990s. Sharkey documents what he calls the “social costs of violence,” the ways in which its effects radiate beyond victim and perpetrator, corroding neighborhoods and communal control over public spaces, and even showing up in the test results of children living near where violence has occurred. Uneasy peace

From this perspective, Sharkey argues those who have benefited most from violence's retreat are people living in what have traditionally been the most marginalized communities. Indeed, he regards the reduction in violence as one of the signal public health victories in recent decades.

Sharkey lays out an ambitious agenda for consolidating what he sees as the incomplete and fragile gains in the struggle against violence. He concedes mass incarceration and a more aggressive “broken windows” style of policing played a role, but he contends the inequities and moral cost of the punitive model render it unsustainable.

Instead, Sharkey’s book is in part a hymn to cities: what makes them thrive and who keeps them safe, and he gathers some extraordinary evidence of the importance of grassroots community organizing and community-based nonprofits.

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