December 18, 2023

2023 in review: A reason for optimism in the face of great challenges

Crime Lab shares an end-of-year update on its work to reduce gun violence and advance justice.

The Crime Lab logo.

2023 has been another deeply challenging year globally, nationally, and in our home city of Chicago. We know that most Americans – in blue and red states alike – are worried about crime and violence, even as homicide rates improved in most cities. And while murders are down from historic highs in 2020 and 2021, we are still not achieving fair and equitable community safety for all. For city residents, safety in America is still very much a tale of two – or more – cities. For example, in 2022, the homicide rate in Chicago (one of the most segregated cities in the country) was 20 times higher for Black residents than it was for white residents.

Our goal at the Crime Lab is to fix this. In response, we launched our largest and boldest initiative yet: the Community Safety Leadership Academies, made up of the Community Violence Intervention Leadership Academy and the Policing Leadership Academy. With this initiative, we are working to provide a world-class education and are investing in the human capital of some of the very people most central to keeping our residents safe: leaders of Community Violence Intervention organizations and police officers in command positions.

As we tackle some of the most seemingly intractable issues facing our nation, we firmly believe there is great reason for optimism. Real change is possible quickly, and we’ve been so inspired by the 56 participants in the academy’s two inaugural cohorts, as well as what they have accomplished.

It is our privilege and honor to do this work, but we could not do it without each and every one of you. Your partnership, engagement, and support aren’t just important – they are mission-critical. We have a steep fundraising goal to realize the potential of these two academies, and every contribution plays a pivotal role in sustaining and advancing the work.

The inaugural Community Violence Intervention Leadership Academy cohort.

Reducing gun violence – The two academies were launched to help prevent violence nationally by investing in the leadership and management of those on the frontlines of public safety in the U.S.:

  • The Policing Leadership Academy (PLA) was designed to help build capacity for police commanders responsible for overseeing policing in some of America’s highest-violence neighborhoods. The first cohort of 25 officers graduated in October. Listen to this recent Freakonomics podcast to learn more about the PLA.
  • The Community Violence Intervention Leadership Academy (CVILA) was designed to help strengthen organizations working to prevent violence at the community level. The first cohort will graduate in February 2024 at a ceremony at the White House. Watch this video about the CVILA.
The Policing Leadership Academy inaugural cohort at their graduation ceremony.

Advancing justice – The Crime Lab also works to reduce the harm of the criminal justice system without compromising public safety.

We designed and evaluated Situational Decision-Making (Sit-D), a groundbreaking behavioral science-informed training. Our randomized controlled trial of Sit-D, the gold standard for evaluating the effectiveness of interventions, found that the training reduced use-of-force incidents by 23% while maintaining police productivity and increasing officer safety. Sit-D also reduced the disproportionately higher number of arrests of Black residents. Learn more.

We evaluated the Narcotics Arrest Diversion Program (NADP), an innovative program that deflects those with substance abuse issues away from the criminal justice system. It is the most extensive police-led drug diversion program in the U.S. Our research found that NADP successfully engages participants in treatment, and participants were 72% less likely to be re-arrested in the future, driven by a reduction in arrests for drug and violent offenses. Learn more.

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