Friday, January 24, 2020

The passing of greatness - Herman Goldstein

Professor Herman Goldstein - photo Improving Police

by Gregory Saville

Today I write about my friend and mentor, retired University of Wisconsin Law School Professor Herman Goldstein. Today, Herman Goldstein died at home. He was 89.

When I first met Herman 25 years ago, I was impressed by how he so seamlessly dissected arguments, one logical piece after the other, and reconstituted them into a much clearer picture. He did this in his scholarship and, when I asked him personal advice, he did the same. It was a clarity I found refreshing in an academic world rife with politics and insecurities. He helped steer me through a sea of misdirection. It was that kind of clarity that led to him winning the Stockholm Prize, criminology's Nobel, in 2018.

Herman Goldstein winning the prestigious Stockholm Prize in 2018


Herman’s career goes back to the foundations of modern police reform. In the late 1950s he was a staff investigator for the American Bar Foundation’s 10 year study of criminal justice, where he began riding with and observing police officers. It led to the earliest-known reflections about the nature of police discretion, a seminal finding that influences policing today. In the 1960s he worked on the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice and in the 1970s, the New York City Knapp Commission on Police Corruption, following the Serpico scandals.

Few were more central, and influential, in writing about the police than Herman Goldstein. However, in my mind the single most formative idea by Herman – and one that resonates today more than ever – emerged from his 1977 book Policing a Free Society:
 “The strength of a democracy and the quality of life enjoyed by its citizens are determined in large measure by the ability of the police to discharge their duties.” 
How many other policing scholars have the insight to study the reality of street policing and discover that a healthy democracy lies in the quality of our police?

In 1979, and then in 1990, he wrote about Problem-Oriented Policing (POP) as path to a safer community and a new relationship between police and community. It has dozens of guidebooks, annual conferences, and publications, coordinated today by the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing directed by Mike Scott.

POP Guides on real-life solutions to real-life problems

I recently read Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces and Vitale’s The End of Policing. These authors offer salient points about the inherent flaws in policing, but they miss one essential message – they say nothing about what policing does right. They ignored decades of problem-oriented policing that has cut crime and bonded neighborhoods and their cops. They provided not a single reference or hint that problem-oriented policing even existed!

That is irresponsible writing. If they had done their homework, they would know, as Mike Scott once wrote, “that police accountability is intricately linked to society’s understanding of the police function.”


Thirty years after the publication of Herman’s Problem-Oriented Policing, and in spite of the persistent crashing of one trend-wave after another, the POP model still floats atop the ocean of police reform movements. There is simply nothing quite like it and I’m stunned when I teach police academy instructors, field training officers, or police leaders, and they know very little about POP. Shame on them! For goodness sake, get a little Goldstein in your life and wake up!

One elegant message that Herman taught me – and that all crime prevention and policing people should learn – is that if you want to make things better, look to where things are done better.

Problem-Oriented Policing is such a place. Herman Goldstein was the thought-leader who created it. It’s now up to courageous leaders to make problem-oriented policing happen beyond the piecemeal lip service we see today, hidden behind the armored personnel carriers, night vision goggles, and predictive algorithms.

Herman Goldstein showed us how to make policing better. We owe him a debt. I know I certainly do.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Cutting murder - remembering the past

Solving murders? Solutions within the hood.

by Gregory Saville

It’s useful to learn from history because – as Santayana said in The Life of Reason – those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Or, in some cases, maybe they are wise to repeat it! Sadly, when it comes to crime, it often seems amnesia afflicts those tasked with preventing it.

Consider the case of Britain’s National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal (NSNR) in 2001, a holistic approach for fixing troubled neighborhoods! This program had multiple threads with a long-term goal to rebuild what criminologists now call collective efficacy, what we call SafeGrowth.

In the 1990s crime in countries throughout the developed world was declining, with the exception of homicide in Britain. Criminologists prefer tracking homicide statistics since those data are among the most accurate. And in the late 1990s and early 2000s, homicide in the UK was bucking the trend elsewhere and was going up for reasons poorly understood.


One theory is that social conditions and economic problems in deprived areas are at the root of the crime tree, hence tackling neighborhood structure should make a difference since most homicide incidents occurred in troubled neighborhoods. Crime has always festered in such troubled places; it’s the reason we locate SafeGrowth directly within neighborhoods.

Then, a few years into the leadership of Britain’s former PM Tony Blair, the government launched a neighborhood program called: National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal: A Framework for Consultation. At the time it was a very big deal! This was in the heady days before the Global Recession of 2008 and long before Brexit.

The NSNR dealt with unemployment, housing, education and crime, and it was aimed at local, neighborhood-level strategies. A few years later the government evaluated the program and asked: Did the NSNR schemes revitalize neighborhoods? Did it work?

Decent physical and social infrastructure - both matter


The evaluation reads like a master class on failed implementation: Neighborhoods were not targeted properly, implementation was spotty, and some violent crime increased! Community empowerment was promised, but too often top-down planning resulted. So much for government-run programming!

And yet a strange thing happened: preliminary results were mostly positive!
The headline findings of the evaluation are that during the lifespan of NSNR there has been some narrowing of the gap between the most deprived neighbourhoods and the rest of the country...the most deprived neighbourhoods are doing better than they were! (NSNR Evaluation)
Now, almost two decades later, another remarkable trend showed up: In the decade following that evaluation, the persistent British homicide rates changed direction and began a rapid decline! Was the NSNR directly responsible? Hard to say, but it’s difficult to rule out. The homicide charts seem to indicate it was at least partly responsible.

The incidence rate per million population for homicide offences currently
recorded by the police in England and Wales, year ending
December 1967 to year ending March 2015.
Source: UK Home Office

This is a history worth remembering. And it's a history we've written about before in this blog, such as the Chicago Area Projects of the 1940s, re-evaluated in the 1980s, still preventing crime today and still underfunded in that suffering city.

Capacity-building embedded directly within troubled neighborhoods, supported and resourced by the city, informed by community development practices, employing the latest in CPTED, SafeGrowth, and prevention science. Let’s repeat that history!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Does immigration cause crime?

Immigrants entering Slovenia during refugee crisis
Photo by Borut Podgoršek, MORS, Creative Commons

by Martin Andresen

GUEST BLOG: Martin Andresen is associate professor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. He is Chair of the Crime and Place Working Group at the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy and an associate editor at the Journal of Quantitative Criminology. Martin recently joined the SafeGrowth Network and offers this guest blog, our first blog of the new decade.


Over the last several years there has been a lot of debate about the link between immigration and crime. Do immigrants commit crime? Yes, but so do a lot of people! This is not the right question to ask because what really matters is: Do immigrants commit more crimes than those born in the country? With so much news linking immigration to crime, it is not a surprise that many people believe that it is true. But is it?

Research over the past 20-30 years provides a definitive answer – No!

In fact, research often demonstrates that immigrant populations commit fewer crimes. If this is the case, why does the myth persist?

Airport lineups - for generations, people from all countries
have migrated around the world


At the turn of the 20th century, most immigrants to North America were poor or had very few resources. They moved into poorer areas of cities, areas with higher rates of crime. Criminologists Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay wrote about this phenomenon decades ago in one of the most famous studies in criminology: Juvenile Delinquency and Urban Areas.

Gate of Harmonious Interest - Entrance to Chinatown in Victoria, BC
Photo by MARLEBU, Creative Commons

Shaw and McKay found that when immigrants had the means to move into better (more stable) neighbourhoods, they also committed less crime. As such, immigrants changed their behaviour based on where they lived: it wasn’t that people (the immigrants) were related to crime, it was that places tended to produce crime.


Recent studies also show that immigrant populations are no more prone to crime than those who are born in the country. Some researchers suggest that there are two explanations for this: immigrant revitalization and ethnic enclaves.

Immigrant revitalization refers to immigrant populations moving into those same poorer areas described above. Ethnic enclaves are places with concentrations of immigrant populations from the same region of the world who shared a common set of language and culture – immigrant groups have been doing this for over 100 years. Rather than moving out of those areas, these populations are revitalizing them, making them places where people want to live. Most immigrants move to a new country for a better life and often create better places as a result.

Pro-immigration rally in Barcelona, Spain
Photo Artur Rabell, Creative Commons

What is really going on with immigration and crime? As immigrants move into an area, they develop relationships with people and attachment to places. Over time, these areas become neighbourhoods. And once people come together to build something, why would they partake in activities to destroy it?