Since the pandemic and protests, violent crime has been on the rise across the United States. Drug use and mental health issues have also risen, education outcomes are lower, and there is less opportunity for prospering despite the recent growth of the economy.

In the midst of this turmoil, some have pushed the overcriminalization narrative too far by instituting no bail policies for violent offenders, releasing them back onto the streets. Moreover, district attorneys aren’t prosecuting violent offenders, and judges are giving lenient sentences. Major cities across the U.S., including New Orleans, are pushing to defund the police. There is a shortage of police nationwide, and New Orleans is currently short 300 officers due to policy changes that led to a rash of retirements and resignations. Baton Rouge is short 100 officers for the same reasons. All these issues are conflagrating to create an increase in violent crime.

What should be done to protect the citizens of Louisiana? First, there should be a renewed focus on proactive policing efforts. A new organization, Public Safety Solutions for America, founded by former white-house advisor Ja’Ron Smith, holds to four principles on violent crime that many nationwide organizations involved in criminal justice reform, including the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, have signed. These principles include proper policing policies and proven evidence-based programming:

  1. Properly fund the police
  2. Focus law enforcement time and resources on preventing and solving serious crime
  3. Focus on evidence-based policies that focus on reducing violent crime
  4. Continue to enact Smart on Crime policies that increase public safety and criminal justice system success

So how does proper, proactive policing work? First, police must be properly funded and appropriately staffed for the community they serve. Effective policing requires education and training in effective strategies that produces a more highly trained officer. Proper funding also creates a police force that is the appropriate size and can be laser-focused on high-crime areas. Second, police time and resources would be better spent focusing on violent crime, rather than having to focus on mental health issues, low-level drug possession cases, and non-criminal calls. Using other resources available to focus on these issues, rather than having the police focus on them, would make for more effective policing, leaving police the task of preventing or solving more serious crimes.

To reduce violent crime in Louisiana, we must appropriately fund our law enforcement, fully staff each force, and properly educate and train our future officers. We must also enable police departments to concentrate resources on high-crime areas in our communities, and focus on violent crime by shifting the burden of non-criminal calls to other organizations.