Can this man’s radical crime-reduction strategy really work?

Two years ago, The New Yorker published a thought-provoking profile of David Kennedy—a man who thought he had the solution to America’s gang problems. Kennedy’s methods were provocative: In effect, he’d argued that most violent crimes were the result of long-held misunderstandings between criminals and the police, and staged a series of community-wide interventions (which The New Yorker called “intensely dramatic events, like modern-day morality plays”). And if that sounds a bit soft to you, consider the numbers: In some of the cities Kennedy had turned his attentions to, out-of-control crime rates had fallen by as much as 75 percent.

In Don’t Shoot: One Man, a Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America, Kennedy describes his own experiences in Stockton, Cincinnati, Boston, Baltimore, and other American cities, and argues for a crime-fighting program that makes a lot more sense than anything you’re likely to hear about in Washington (or, for that matter, your local statehouse). The book reads like a thriller, but it’s full of commonsense solutions to a few seemingly insurmountable problems. Reading it left us more hopeful for America’s dangerous places and the millions of people who inhabit them.

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Can this man’s radical crime-reduction strategy really work?