Overall crime is on the rise in Cedar Rapids, Iowa but so-called “gun violence” has dropped significantly in the last year. The success is not the result of new gun control laws, but rather a new policing strategy that focuses attention on individuals who are most likely to commit crimes with a gun.
In 2016 the number of shots fired calls in Cedar Rapids dropped by 14% compared to the year before. The number of homicides also dropped. This is the first time in three years that the number of shots fired calls has decreased. After 2015 there were numerous calls for strict gun control measures, yet the Cedar Rapids Police Department took a different approach, one that did not involve restricting the rights of non-violent, law-abiding Cedar Rapids residents.
Cedar Rapids’ Police Chief Wayne Jerman credits the drop in gun crime to the creation of a new community based approach to gun violence. In 2016 CRPD created a five person Police Community Action Team (PCAT). Officers assigned to the PCAT are sent out into the community to build relationships, identify problem areas and key players in gun crimes and gather intelligence used to target those committing crimes with a gun. One year later the results are in, this tightly focused community based approach works. Gun crime is down at a time when overall crime has been on the rise in Cedar Rapids.
According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette the number of all criminal offenses in Cedar Rapids increased from 15,045 in 2015 to 15,469 in 2016 – an increase of nearly four percent. More specifically, other types of crime not directly related to firearms stayed consistent or increased in 2016. Yet the number of gun related crimes dropped significantly. The Gazette reports the following trends for non-firearms crimes:
Burglary: 1,005 reported offenses, up from 999 in 2015.
Assault: 1,319 reported, an increase from 1,272.
Vandalism: 1,116 reported, compared with 1110 in 2015.
Drug violations: 1,529 reported, an increase from 1,373.
Thefts: 3,811 reported in both 2016 and 2015
The results of Cedar Rapids’ community based approach to targeting gun crimes mimics what other communities around the country have found. When properly staffed and funded, intelligence based, community policing that focuses on the bad actors reduces gun crime in a big way.
This style of policing and community outreach gained national attention in Boston in the mid-ninety’s after it led to a 63% decrease in youth homicides. Labeled “Operation Ceasefire” in Boston, this approach to gun violence was dubbed the “Boston Miracle” after logging so much success. Even more encouraging, the results have been replicated in numerous other communities. Stockton, California saw a 42% reduction in monthly homicides by gun. Indianapolis, Indiana reduced the number of monthly gun homicides in their city by 34%, and assaults involving a gun dropped by 44% in Lowell, Massachusetts after they implemented their own version of Operation Ceasefire. The program has been named by the US Department of Justice as one of only five crime reduction programs that’s proven effective. Now Cedar Rapids, Iowa appears to have discovered what so many other communities have learned, tightly focused community based policing that focuses on those most likely to commit gun violence works.
Gun owners and civil rights advocates alike should applaud and encourage this approach to solving the “gun violence” problem in their community. Solid, repeatable gains can be made in reducing crimes associated with firearms while still respecting and not infringing on the rights of non-violent, law-abiding citizens.
In short, reductions in so-called gun violence can be achieved without infringing on the right to keep and bear arms of vast swaths of non-violent Americans.
The Iowa Firearms Coalition lauds the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s PCAT members and the city’s new approach to community based policing. We hope to see continued reductions in firearms related offenses and hope that other communities in Iowa and throughout the country recognize the impact this style of policing can have.