Study: Nonprofits, Ordinary Citizens Played Major Role in Crime Decline

As many wonder whether the nation's multi-decade crime decline will continue, research suggests that community groups and local nonprofits have played a larger role in that story than they're given credit for.
November 14, 2017, 6am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Emily Badger covers a study by NYU sociologist Patrick Sharkey which argues that ordinary citizens and nonprofits had a great deal to do with the national decline in crime. "Local nonprofit groups that responded to the violence by cleaning streets, building playgrounds, mentoring children and employing young men had a real effect on the crime rate."

The study, which Sharkey develops in an upcoming book, doesn't "contend that community groups alone drove the national decline in crime, but rather that their impact is a major missing piece."

Sharkey tracks the crime decline alongside the proliferation of nonprofit groups over 20 years, not all of them explicitly anti-crime. "The same communities were participating in another big shift that started in the 1990s: The number of nonprofits began to rise sharply across the country, particularly those addressing neighborhood and youth development."

The impact of community nonprofits may have been substantial. One estimate finds that "every 10 additional organizations in a city with 100,000 residents [...] led to a 9 percent drop in the murder rate and a 6 percent drop in violent crime." The study suggests that local nonprofits and community groups can relieve police forces of some of the non-traditional duties they've been forced to assume. 

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Published on Thursday, November 9, 2017 in The New York Times
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