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Don't Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America Hardcover – September 27, 2011
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"Kennedy tells me that this work can cut the nation’s homicide rate in half. Read his important book - part jeremiad, part gripping crime thriller - and you will believe him…The approach is simple, but not easy... It takes tremendous, continuous cooperation - reaching across political, organizational, and cultural divides... This is how we, as a nation, can and must finally back out of the rolling destruction, by death and mass incarceration, of our cities, our society, and our moral character." – Boston Globe“An unlikely criminal-justice pioneer revisits his innovative, immensely successful crusade against youth homicide in America's worst neighborhoods… A valuable text—not just for the solution, but also for the refreshing philosophy behind it.” —Kirkus Reviews
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Without getting too deep in the weeds, Kennedy lays out the three groups directly affected by gun violence: the people who live where it's happening, the police tasked with stopping it, and the people doing the shooting. He then breaks down just exactly why they all hate it, and why the common narratives about each group's complicity are largely myths, and then how to bring them together to drive the rates of shooting and murder down.
Make no mistake -- this is not a book for gun-control advocates, nor is it a book for those dreaming of an end to all gun violence. Kennedy is instead laying out how to overlay data, analysis, network mapping, and other social science tools with law enforcement processes, and community and family incentives, to target the worst offenders, who are disproportionately responsible for gun violence. The outcome can be communities that are restored to those who live there, and I challenge anyone not to be inspired by the hope this can generate.
As straightforward as it is, Kennedy is not shy of detailing all the times the plans haven't' worked, and why. It depends on large amounts of bureaucratic cooperation, putting egos aside, putting established mindsets aside, and most importantly, committing to the governance structures necessary to maintain a complex, ongoing project.
Must reading for anyone interested in gun violence in America and what can be done to reduce it, as well as anyone interested in effective and respectful modes of law enforcement.
"Don't Shoot" might be the "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" of the War On Crime. Like T.E. Lawrence's idiosyncratic masterpiece, "Don't Shoot" deploys a highly intelligent and unorthodox author/protagonist---a renegade intellectual turned man of action---a strong narrative drive, acute and colorful character sketches, bravura descriptive passages, and an entirely original analysis. Like "Seven Pillars," it is a book about a journey to There: in this case to the crime-blighted minority inner city where the average white American never goes, mainly because the average white American feels pretty confident of what he would find if he did go.
But although Kennedy writes as an expert on There, his message home is that There is a socially constructed illusion. Kennedy mobilizes the traditions of the imperial adventure tale to show us what we should have known already: that everyone involved in the inner city crime crisis has more in common with each other than anyone involved has in common with anyone else. He shows that the cops, the shooters, the victims, the families, the communities, all start from the same human place. These are similar people trapped in extreme circumstances, not a radically and permanently different type of person. Kennedy shows how many features of the inner city wasteland of our public discourse---e.g., the "super-predators" who don't fear death and prison and value-free families that rear them--are figments of our public imagination or iatrogenic products of our own ham-handed anti-crime tactics. He shows why our blindness to these things has prevented real changes, and he shows what those changes can be. "Don't Shoot" provides a compelling argument that a carefully targeted anti-crime strategy that rigorously limits collateral damage is not only a moral imperative but a pragmatic necessity. It takes an impressive literary high-wire act to pull this off, but Kennedy pulls it off.