US spends $35 million on Smart Suite science program to combat crime

Can science become a valuable weapon in tackling criminality?

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The US Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is awarding grants worth over $35 million to programs which utilize science in the fight against crime.

On Monday, the OJP announced plans to spend over $34.5 million on nine programs which aim to reduce crime, improve community safety, and provide a "science-based approach" to criminal justice.

The US agency says that over 40 jurisdictions and research institutes will receive funding under the "Smart Suite" umbrella. The Smart Suite program aims to promote innovative solutions by using data analysis, technology, evidence-based practices, and scientific knowledge to keep US citizens safe -- as well as improve the performance of the criminal justice system while not increasing costs.

During the Smart Suite Summit which took place September 7, Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason said the program will help communities target criminal hotspots, enhance public safety, and encourage the "revitalization" of run-down neighborhoods.

"The Smart Suite touches every aspect of the criminal justice system, from arrest to prosecution to reentry, relying on practitioner-researcher relationships that use data, evidence and innovation to enable jurisdictions to understand the full nature and extent of local crime challenges," the agency says.

Some of the projects earmarked for fresh funding include:

  • Smart Policing Initiative: Over $4.4 million has been awarded to five jurisdictions and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. This initiative seeks to promote analysis and evidence-based policing by encouraging law enforcement agencies to develop "effective, economical and innovative responses to crime."
  • Project Safe Neighborhoods: More than $5.7 million was awarded to 16 jurisdictions under this program, which intends to create safer neighborhoods by reducing gang violence and gun crime. PSN includes a task force of federal, state, and local police, community members, and researchers to approach the problem through data and research.
  • Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program: About $8 million was awarded to 10 local criminal justice and community agencies and research institutions. The goal of this program is to help communities develop strategies that target neighborhoods with hotspots of crime and violence.
  • Smart Reentry: From Incarceration to Community: Nearly $6 million was awarded to six jurisdictions under this program, aimed at improving the reentry of prisoners into communities successfully.

US officials have already seen some success with smart programs. In Corning, California, a previous grant resulted awarded to Byrne Criminal Justice saw a "30 percent decrease" in violent crime since 2015, and a gun diversion program is now underway.

"These successes are no accident," said Mason. "They happened because of a commitment to smart, sustainable public safety strategies grounded in data and research. These awards help communities pursue evidence-based and community partnerships to reduce crime and increase public safety."

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