The Root Cause of Violent Crime Is Not What We Think It Is

By , CPE Staff

In a Guest Essay published by The New York Times, CPE Co-founder and CEO Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff argues that “if someone is talking about how tough they are and how scared you should be, they care more about keeping you scared than keeping you safe.”

In the piece, Dr. Goff discusses a truth that CPE supporters already know well: Being "tough-on-crime" doesn't keep communities safe; strong communities do

As Dr. Goff writes:

“The tough-on-crime narrative acts like a black hole. It subsumes new ideas and silences discussions of solutions that are already making a difference in people’s lives. And it provides bottomless succor to politicians who are more interested in keeping themselves in power than keeping people safe.”

Dr. Goff’s piece reflects CPE's central mission. We use science to produce rigorous analyses, partner with communities to identify racial inequities in policing practices, and collaborate on redesigning public safety so that everyone—especially the Black and Brown communities disproportionately impacted by burdensome policing—can thrive. For example:

  • We are partnering with The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center on a joint series of Learning Communities for Policing Alternatives. The Learning Communities are part of a suite of resources that make up our new community empowerment program, Unlocking Democracy. Rooted in the understanding that government of, by, and for the people rests on a foundation of shared responsibility, mutual trust, and bedrock safety, the Learning Communities are designed to support stakeholders seeking to establish more equitable public safety systems.
  • We are working with the St. Louis community to redesign their public safety systems with community-led solutions such as expanding access to place-based public safety technologies, strengthening the city’s response to family and intimate partner violence, and establishing alternative avenues for low-risk 911 calls.
  • We’ve partnered with dozens of law enforcement agencies to produce Justice Navigator Assessments that highlight racial inequities in their policing outcomes. These assessments have informed the adoption of more equitable public safety systems, policing practices, and policing alternatives across the country, from more stringent use of force protocols to the establishment of emergency response teams focused on mental health crises. Our public reports can be viewed here, and learn more about our methodology and community-centered approach here and here
  • We believe all communities should have access to rigorous data science to help them combat unfair policing practices, advocate for alternative public safety options, and reduce the harms caused by the current status quo. Our Putting Policing Data to Work Data Brief and Stop Data Collection Toolkit for community members, activists, and scholars interested in doing their own police data research, help make that possible. 

It's CPE’s mission to dismantle systemic racism. We provide leaders with data, stories, and relationships to facilitate change that's bold, innovative, and lasting. We do science to promote justice to get out of the narrative black hole and into the light.