Johns Hopkins researchers, Baltimore police to work together to study, reduce violent crime

Daniel Webster, Sheldon Greenberg to lead collaborative effort

Johns Hopkins University and the Baltimore Police Department announced today a joint effort to apply data and research to policing in hopes of reducing violent crime.

JHU President Ron Daniels speaks at podium

Image caption: JHU President Ronald J. Daniels speaks at a news conference announcing a partnership between Johns Hopkins and Baltimore police aimed at reducing violent crime.

The Johns Hopkins-Baltimore Collaborative for Violence Reduction will promote, develop, and evaluate interventions aimed at curbing violence.

"We know that persistent violence in Baltimore tears at the fabric of our neighborhood and of our city," Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels said at a news conference this morning announcing the partnership. "You don't have to look very far to see the pain that violence is causing the families, friends, neighbors, and communities of the victims. Our entire city is affected by this scourge. ... The goal of this project is to put knowledge into action to make our community safer."

The effort will be directed by Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, and Sheldon Greenberg, professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Education. Violence researcher Cassandra Crifasi of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will serve as deputy director. The JHU research team will work closely with Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and other senior leaders in the police department.

Webster told The Baltimore Sun that the effort is "sort of a service project" in answer to the question: "How can Hopkins help Baltimore police in being most effective in combatting violent crime and doing it in a way that repairs the relationship in the community as well?"

The researchers and police have worked together to identify six priority projects to begin their violence reduction efforts:

  • Assessing ongoing efforts to remove the most violent criminals from Baltimore streets: Researchers will assess two current efforts to determine where they have been effective and where they may be improved—B-Fed, an initiative to establish a homicide and violence reduction task force involving the Baltimore Police Department and federal law enforcement agencies; and The War Room, established in July 2015 to identify and remove from the streets the most important individuals driving gun violence.

  • Deterring illegal gun possession and use: Illegal gun possession is closely tied to Baltimore's homicides and nonfatal shootings. Researchers will work with police to develop evidence-based programs and procedures designed to reduce illegal gun availability and possession.

  • Fighting crime and building relationships with residents: Researchers will develop a foot patrol initiative for the Baltimore Police Department that will involve meeting with command staff, developing curricula, creating patrol officer and supervisory guidance, and assessing the efforts for continuous improvement.

  • Improving rewards for crime tips: Baltimore has one of the smallest reward systems among major U.S. cities for citizens to provide information that helps police solve crimes. Researchers will review best practices and recommend the most effective way implement an improved tips program in Baltimore.

  • Coordinating the District Commander Summit and Regional Field Commanders Forum. The District Commanders Summit will bring together the nine district commanders serving the Baltimore Police Department—a group responsible for the majority of front-line police services provided to communities—to enhance their effectiveness and impact. Greenberg will serve as coordinator, facilitator, and aide to the group.

  • Improving police recruitment efforts. Researchers will conduct a three-session seminar series focused on enhancing recruiting efforts by and on behalf of the Baltimore Police Department. At the end of the three sessions, recommendations will be conveyed in a formal report to Davis and senior leadership of the Baltimore Police Department.

The collaborative will be funded in its first year with $250,000 from both the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Abell Foundation. The Annie E. Casey Foundation has committed another $250,000 for 2017.