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Democratic Mayors Have Taken Decisive Actions To Stop Crime and Make Their Communities Safer
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Democratic Mayors Have Taken Decisive Actions To Stop Crime and Make Their Communities Safer

Democratic mayors across the country are using a wide range of strategies and approaches to respond to violent crime and address its root causes.

Man walking by a gun buyback poster
The stock of a rifle protrudes from under a man's arm as he arrives at a gun buyback event in Baltimore, December 2018. (Getty/Jim Watson/ AFP)

Mayors deal with the consequences of violent crime and other public safety issues more than any other elected officials. Unfortunately, Republican elected officials frequently criticize Democratic mayors for their cities’ crime rates. Yet evidence shows that guns are the main driver of violent crime, and Republican-led states continue to pass dangerous gun legislation opposed by law enforcement. Yet Democratic mayors are taking real action to hold people who commit violent crimes accountable by supporting proven violence prevention programs and other strategies to stop crime before it occurs and fighting for gun reforms that will stop the flow of guns into their communities. Many of these mayors are doing everything in their power to stop violent crime despite Republican-dominated state legislatures repeatedly weakening gun laws and making communities less safe.

See also

Democratic mayors across the country are using a variety of tools to decrease the number of guns on their cities’ streets and implement proven strategies to prevent crime from happening in the first place. They include:

  • Atlanta, Georgia, Mayor Andre Dickens set a goal of adding 10,000 streetlights in his first year in office and has already installed or repaired several thousand streetlights through the Light the Night program.
  • Augusta, Georgia, Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. “pledged … to release data on the makers of guns used in crimes in the city.”
  • Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler increased funding for the city’s Office of Violence Prevention to fund violence intervention programs, invest in technology to improve data-driven violence reduction policies, and “develop a Community Safety Grant Program to provide seed funding for community-led prevention and intervention efforts.”
  • Baltimore, Maryland, Mayor Brandon Scott piloted a Group Violence Reduction Strategy involving police, prosecutors, and community partners working together to deter group-involved gun violence.
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome allocated $2.5 million in federal funding to community-based public safety and launched Heal the Block, “a weekly summer series aiming to bring resources directly to communities impacted by violence.”
  • Birmingham, Alabama, Mayor Randall Woodfin pardoned more than 15,000 people with cannabis-related charges and invested $3 million in conflict resolution resources.
  • Boston, Massachusetts, Mayor Michelle Wu launched the Community Ambassadors Program, which is dedicated to supporting, through both outreach and service referrals, families and young people at elevated risk of involvement in violence.
  • Buffalo, New York, Mayor Byron Brown continues to fund the Buffalo Peacemakers and Gang Intervention Program, a community-led violence intervention program aimed at mediating conflicts and connecting people to services and opportunities.
  • Camden, New Jersey, Mayor Victor Carstarphen implemented the collaborative Camden Strong program, which is aimed at improving the health and quality of life of Camden residents.
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee, Mayor Tim Kelly expanded mental health resources by placing mental health professionals in community centers to provide assessments and referrals to services and allocating funding to support community-based mental health initiatives.
  • Chicago, Illinois, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the largest gun buyback program in Chicago’s history, with the next event held by the Chicago Police Department scheduled for August 20, 2022.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio, Mayor Aftab Pureval provided funding for multiple community-based programs, including the Urban League’s Community Partnering Center, which provides “crisis intervention, de-escalation, and mentoring to at-risk individuals.”
  • Cleveland, Ohio, Mayor Justin Bibb issued an executive order removing the barrier that requires police to contact a prosecutor prior to taking an individual to the Diversion Center and directed that funding will be used to “add five more violence interrupters in each of Cleveland’s police districts.”
  • Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Andrew Ginther allocated $15.6 million in federal funding to support youth engagement programs and anti-violence efforts.
  • Dallas, Texas, Mayor Eric Johnson implemented the Summer of Safety campaign, which includes “free and low-cost activities for youth.”
  • Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Jeffrey J. Mims Jr. is launching a pilot Mediation Response Program to prompt a mediation-based response to some nonemergency, nonviolent situations, allowing police officers to focus on emergency situations.
  • Detroit, Michigan, Mayor Mike Duggan advocated for state legislation signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) that significantly expanded eligibility for criminal record expungement. Detroit also used American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to expand mental health response and community violence programs.
  • El Paso, Texas, Mayor Oscar Leeser joined with 13 Texas mayors urging Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to call a special legislative session to address gun violence.
  • Hartford, Connecticut, Mayor Luke Bronin announced that the police department has created a new nonfatal shooting team that focuses on nonfatal shootings with the same investigative intensity given to homicides.
  • Houston, Texas, Mayor Sylvester Turner developed One Safe Houston, a comprehensive violence reduction initiative that incorporates many public health-focused programs that address the health, social, and behavioral factors that lead to crime.
  • Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas initiated the first city-led lawsuit against a gun manufacturer in more than 10 years.
  • Little Rock, Arkansas, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. created the Office of Neighborhood Safety to implement his “comprehensive violence reduction strategy,” as well as the Holistic Outreach and Prevention in Every Neighborhood Council (HOPE), which is “designed to come up with creative programs meant to prevent crime” by “improv[ing] living conditions in the neighborhoods where crime frequently happens.”
  • Madison, Wisconsin, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway increased opportunities for youth by increasing funding for programs that provide training, employment, mentorships, leadership development, and more for young people across the city.
  • Manchester, New Hampshire, Mayor Joyce Craig established the Public Health and Safety Team, which consists of eight community health workers who work in conjunction with the police department and health department to address neighborhood-level concerns and connect residents to resources.
  • Miami-Dade County, Florida, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava launched the Peace and Prosperity Plan, a 20-year, $90 million investment to create jobs and internships for at-risk youth, along with other proven prevention, intervention, reentry, and enforcement programs.
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mayor Cavalier Johnson provided free gun locks at all firehouses, multiple health department locations, and many not-for-profit agencies to improve gun safety and prevent gun thefts from homes with firearms.
  • Montgomery, Alabama, Mayor Steven Reed launched the Stop the Violence campaign, which holds public safety rallies and walks in partnership with the city’s Office of Violence Prevention.
  • Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Ras Baraka is redefining public safety through Newark’s “public safety ecosystem,” which invests in community-led programs and relies on all community stakeholders to be engaged in creating safe communities.
  • Oakland, California, Mayor Libby Schaaf announced the full return of the city’s Ceasefire program, which previously reduced Oakland’s gun violence by 50 percent.
  • Orlando, Florida, Mayor Buddy Dyer launched the Community Response Team pilot program, which includes trained mental and behavioral health professionals responding to certain nonviolent calls for service.
  • Phoenix, Arizona, Mayor Kate Gallego expanded the Community Assistance Program to better care for those with mental and behavioral health issues and simultaneously ease the burden on police officers. Phoenix also recently announced a “multi-faceted focused enforcement” plan with the goal of reducing gun violence in the city.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mayor Ed Gainey created the STOP the Violence Community Investment Fund to provide grants to organizations that provide services and opportunities for people in “neighborhoods currently experiencing high levels of violence.”
  • Raleigh, North Carolina, Mayor Mary-Anne Baldwin is launching the city’s first gun buyback program on August 20, 2022.
  • Richmond, Virginia, Mayor Levar Stoney recently announced a gun buyback program for August 20, 2022.
  • San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Ron Nirenberg increased funding for preventing gun violence, domestic violence, and child and youth violence.
  • San Diego, California, Mayor Todd Gloria established No Shots Fired, a gang diversion program.
  • Savannah, Georgia, Mayor Van R. Johnson II announced the formation of a reentry task force to “help formerly incarcerated individuals or those with a criminal history” successfully return to society.
  • Seattle, Washington, Mayor Bruce Harrell is including community members in the search for Seattle’s new chief of police by hosting community conversations to allow residents to share their priorities for filling the role.
  • Shreveport, Louisiana, Mayor Adrian Perkins purchased body cameras for each Shreveport police officer in partnership with the business community.
  • Stamford, Connecticut, Mayor Caroline Simmons secured federal funds to provide greater mental health support within the Stamford Police Department and promoted the Gun Stoppers program, which provides monetary payments to local residents for tips that result in an arrest and conviction or the seizure of a firearm.
  • St. Louis, Missouri, Mayor Tishaura O. Jones signed Board Bill 65 to create the Office of Violence Prevention and dedicated almost $13.6 million in ARP funding to support community violence prevention and youth programs.
  • St. Paul, Minnesota, Mayor Melvin Carter allocated $4 million in ARP funding to the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety—which will help coordinate access to vital services such as treatment programs, schools, and social services—and an additional $3 million to expand programming in libraries and recreation centers.
  • Tallahassee, Florida, Mayor John Dailey recently pledged $5 million to spend on gun violence prevention programs over the next five years.
  • Tampa, Florida, Mayor Jane Castor funded a new behavioral health co-responder program and multiple “no-questions-asked” gun buyback events by the Tampa Police Department.
  • Tucson, Arizona, Mayor Regina Romero formed the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and invested ARP funds into violence reduction programs such as the Place Network Investigations. Tucson is also launching a citywide 311 line for nonemergency service calls.

Conclusion

This wide-ranging list of approaches to promote public safety demonstrates how Democratic mayors are using every tool at their disposal to stop violent crime while investing in the root causes of violence over the long term. Democratic leaders in both small and large cities are increasingly having health care and other professionals respond to mental health and substance abuse incidents so that police can focus on violent crimes. They are making it harder for people who commit crimes to get guns, and they are investing in solutions that will prevent crime in the first place—such as community-based violence prevention programs, good schools, affordable housing, mental health and drug treatment, and good-paying jobs. These mayors prove that cities can combat gun violence and reduce violent crime without overpolicing and mass incarceration, which have not only perpetuated systemic racism but also failed to effectively curb crime. Unlike the Republican officials who frequently criticize them, Democratic mayors have developed a comprehensive strategy that uses every tool at their disposal to reduce crime and increase safety.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.

Authors

Jerry Parshall

Senior Director, Safety and Justice Campaign and Director, State and Local Government Affairs

Allie Preston

Policy Analyst, Criminal Justice Reform

Nick Wilson

Senior Director

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