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Violence in Urban America: Mobilizing a Response - Summary of a Conference
have to maintain the criminal justice response, create economic hope for these kids and support the families that are trying to raise good kids, …"
With these cautions in mind, we believe that a balanced portfolio of tactics suggested to the mayor of Cornet City warrants serious consideration by actual jurisdictions in which violence seems somehow out of control. Many of the suggestions flow directly from insights provided by social science research reported in the National Research Council and Guggenheim studies. The suggestions reported here all survived the "face validity" test of being seriously considered and not discarded by a skeptical task force of senior scholars and policy makers concerned with urban violence.
Objective 1: Promote a more effective criminal justice response to violence.
A more effective criminal justice response to Cornet City's recent siege of violence was widely seen as essential. The task forces offered four kinds of recommendations: improving emergency response, overcoming community fear of co-operating with criminal justice agencies, expanding options for intermediate sanctions and postincarceration aftercare, and making traditional criminal justice responses more effective. Although not explicitly stated, an underlying assumption supporting these tactics is that the police will be honest, and will treat members of the community with respect.
Improving Emergency Response
The Cornet City case opens with a futile attempt to report a shooting on the 911 emergency line. Jammed emergency lines are common in cities throughout the country. One task force called for "whatever it takes" to eliminate busy signals and recorded announcements on 911 emergency lines. Failure to immediately connect a 911 line was said to communicate in the clearest possible way that the police department, too, finds violence out of control. Clearing jammed emergency lines was a first-order priority for Cornet City because the inability of citizens to even call out for help has powerful symbolic as well as practical implications. In other cities or communities the key symbolism will be different. Whatever it is, the issue must be identified and swiftly acted upon.
To improve emergency response in Cornet City, conferees suggested (1) more 911 operators; (2) a "triage" system for handling incoming calls, although such systems need fine-tuning to avoid exacerbating poor police-community relations; and (3) public education campaigns to encourage reporting nonemergency events to a nonemergency line.
In the eyes of the task forces, the minutes and hours following the police response to a violent emergency offer several underexploited oppor-