April: Violent Crime Reduction

April 30, 2024


The big picture: National data suggest violent crime is decreasing, but statistics and perceptions don’t always agree.

According to data collected by the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ), 2023 saw a handful of reductions across 38 cities compared to 2022—10% fewer homicides in 32 cities, 3% fewer aggravated assaults in 25 cities, and 5% fewer carjackings in 10 cities.

At the same time, in other places like Washington D.C., violent crime increased by 39%, capturing national attention and sparking the debate: is violent crime up, or is it down?

While it is worth acknowledging America’s overall violent crime reduction, what about the communities that have plateaued or are not experiencing the reductions they would like to? How can we think strategically so that every community, regardless of size, location, or resources, can celebrate a similar win?


What we know: Communities are unique, and their crime reduction strategies should be, too.

Before determining the “right” approach for a specific agency, its leadership must examine the data and pinpoint the problems. Only then can a multifaceted approach be taken to address those problems. The key is layering strategies in a systematic manner to achieve and maintain positive results. 

Depending on the agency, the community, and their collective goals, they might consider the tried and true SARA model or the modern, holistic approach known as Stratified Policing.

Stratified Policing is an innovative model for proactive crime reduction that incorporates evidence-based practices. It includes the implementation of person-focused, problem-solving, place-based, and community-based approaches into everyday operations, making room for accountability, consistency, and, ultimately, proactivity in crime reduction.*

While using either of these frameworks, other strategies that typically offer short- and intermediate-term results can be layered in to target specific violence issues.

Problem-oriented policing (POP) is an evidence-based strategy familiar to many that suggests agencies should first understand and diagnose the problem that is increasing the risk of crime. Available data should then be thoroughly analyzed so a solution can be developed and tested. If the chosen method works, it can be widely implemented.
Hot spots policing is a viable and commonly used option for short-term results that is among the most tested evidence-based strategies for crime reduction.* It concentrates visible police resources in the most crime-prone areas. Research* shows that hot spots policing, when applied correctly, reduces and prevents crime in the hot spot with little evidence of displacement or relocation of the hot spot.
Focused deterrence (also referred to as “pulling levers”) works to change behavior by sending a clear message that continued violence will not be tolerated while also providing resources to address the underlying reasons the individuals or groups chronically commit crimes. Focused deterrence efforts typically include implementing a collaborative strategy between police, the community, and social service providers.


When implementing strategies like these or others, procedural justice must not be overlooked. Research suggests that unjust police interactions with the community are more likely to shape a negative perception of an agency than interactions that are procedurally just. Building trust takes time, but losing trust can happen fast.

Additionally, as part of any violence reduction plan, agencies should establish metrics for success and procedures for capturing data to evaluate their strategies. Evaluating the statistics associated with crime reduction strategies can help determine if they are working or not. Jurisdictions may consider partnering with outside researchers from the beginning to design an evaluation.


Using data to drive strategy: The Davenport Police Department leverages statistics and partnerships to reduce violent crime.

After a violent year in 2019, Davenport leadership brought everyone to the table to address violent gun crime. Today, they are reporting a 54% decrease in shots fired calls, and it isn’t by accident. Find out why.


Chasing the gun: The Chattanooga Police Department uses crime gun intelligence to disrupt community violence.

Chattanooga Sergeant Josh May leads the agency’s Gun Team and its Crime Gun Intelligence Center (CGIC), a Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) program dedicated to making ballistic evidence more actionable and lead-generating. Listen in on CPD’s successes since CGIC implementation.


Zooming in on small communities: Rural agencies working against the current.

Often facing a decreasing tax base, personnel shortages, expansive geographical territory, and limited resources, violent crimes in rural communities are often more fatal than in urban settings. Fortunately, there are resources and grant opportunities that can help.

  • The Rural Violent Crime Reduction Initiative is a partnership with BJA and others, in which NPI provides resources, technical training and assistance to rural agencies. Learn more.
  • Sensitive crimes like domestic violence, child abuse or exploitation, and sexual assault are complex and can be difficult to navigate. Consider this:
  • Drug-related offenses can cripple communities. Consider this:
    • Learn from rural agencies about their efforts to reduce narcotics trafficking in this Rural Violent Crime Reduction Initiative roundtable.
    • The application period for this COPS grant is now open. Funding for additional staff is available and can be used to enhance crime prevention efforts.


    The bottom line: Successful crime reduction takes data, strategy, and, often, the entire community.

    There is no one-size-fits-all solution for crime reduction. Across the country, we see different agencies taking different approaches. Whatever your approach may be, know that true, measurable crime reduction does not happen overnight. It will require data, strategy, and often an entire community of people and partners to make it happen. Below are a few resources to support you on your journey.

    • Research in one place. Explore this literature review of violence reduction strategies, evidence, and impact from February 2020, co-authored by NPI’s Dr. Hannah McManus and Amanda Shoulberg, M.A.
    • Give gun crime the boot. National Crime Gun Intelligence Centers (CGIC) are collaborative efforts between local, state, and federal agencies that aim to improve the quality of investigations by making ballistic evidence more actionable and lead-generating. These centers help identify prolific offenders for investigation and prosecution.
    • Ten steps to reduce gun violence. In this Department of Justice’s Violent Crime Reduction Roadmap, you will find resources, training, and grant opportunities to convert goals into achievements.
    • Disrupt pockets of crime. Hot spots policing is an evidence-based solution for short-term violence reduction. For implementation resources, visit the Hot Spots Lab at George Mason University.
    • Interrupt gang violence. If your community is experiencing violent crime related to gang violence, RAND offers a step-by-step focused deterrence implementation process.
    • Sharpen your strategy. Explore what works and what doesn’t with the National Institute of Justice’s CrimeSolutions resource collection. Explore what programs and practices are deemed effective for a variety of topics important to communities.
    • Honor a professional whose strategy is unmatched. Do you know a police leader who has challenged the status quo to reduce crime? Recognize them as part of NPI’s 2024 Annual Awards program. Applications are accepted through June 1, 2024.