Tuesday, August 3, 2010

There's a new crime and justice policy shop in DC

If you like public policy and work on DC crime issues, then you've got to check out the DCPI, District of Columbia Crime Policy Institute, web site.   The institute is, according to the web site, "a nonpartisan, public policy research organization" that is a collaborative effort of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution.   It was created with funding from the Executive Office of the Mayor (EOM).   Again according to the site, "DCPI’s mission is to support improvements in the administration of justice and public safety policies through evidence-based research."

Three studies are to be completed in September 2010:

  • Mayor's Focused Improvement Area Initiative:   Staff will recommend modifications to the FIA based on best practices and develop models designed to identify neighborhoods, PSAs, and other areas that could benefit from becoming a FIA.
  • Promising Practices of the Metropolitan Police Department:   DCPI staff will determine whether the changes in policy and practice made by MPD actually resulted in the violent crime decline.
  • Understanding the Impact of Pretrial Detention on Defendants and its Implications for Evidence-based Practice:   The goal of this project is to better understand how pretrial detention effects pretrial detainees and public safety in the District.

So now to the good stuff. (Sorry, promised reports cannot be called the "good stuff.")

Homicides in the District of Columbia (2001 - 2009):   This brief is, in many ways, significantly less telling than the August 2009 MPD report on youth homicides.   The youth homicide report included the cause of death and motive, both incredibly important—with this information the public can discern whether the death was related to child abuse and neglect or some other cause, an important distinction for public policy and practice.

So now back to the DCPI brief.   It, as the title suggests, provides basic data about homicides occurring between 2001 and 2009, including homicides by police district, change in the number homicides by police district over time, and, um, that's about it.   What would have been infinitely more useful would have been a breakout of adult and juvenile homicides, the number of non-DC residents who were killed (and the death was deemed a homicide), and behavior related to the homicides (gang, drug use/sales, etc.).   It also would be useful to know if the data is reported by calendar year or fiscal year data.   It is true that most is reported by calendar year; but it matters since those of us who do public policy and budget analysis try to link what we can together.

Moving forward, DCPI should get better acquainted with the District and how the government and her people refer to things.   For example, the homicide report authors refer to the police districts as District 1, District 2, etc.   In fact, DC police districts are now referred to as 1D, 2D, etc. or the First District, Second District, etc.   (And yes, to those who are old enough to remember, there used to be precincts; the district boundaries bear no resemblance to the long-gone precincts.)

Oh, and a final thing.   You can follow DCPI on Twitter, @dccrimepolicy.

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