Could this signal a coming jump in the murder rate? Not necessarily, criminologists say. Another outside force has appeared, this one in the form of modern crime deterrent tactics. Many police departments now maintain frequently updated maps of high-crime areas to more effectively deploy foot patrols—“putting cops on the dots,” as William Bratton, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department who pioneered the technique in New York City in the early 1990s, likes to say. Police departments have also begun to interact directly with known criminal groups, placing them on notice that violence by any member of the group will result in a harsh crackdown on all. The technique leads to more self-policing within the group and resulted in the “Boston Miracle” of the 1990s. It has since been expanded to hundreds of municipalities around the country.
In addition, a recent study showed that a direct economic stimulus can act as a salve. Communities in the 1930s that spent more on public works programs had lower crime rates than other communities, an auspicious portent for the current federal government’s stimulus package. “Can we prevent this stuff entirely?” Kennedy asks. “No, we can’t. But medicine used to be a thing where, when an epidemic swept through, you put on a mask and hoped. Now you get a flu shot, and it helps.”
Editor's Note: This story was originally printed with the title "Stick 'Em Up"