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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

4.6 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Don’t Shoot will do for the fight against violence what Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring did for the environmental movement a generation ago.” —Malcolm Gladwell
"Kennedy...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." – Very Short List

"Fascinating…Kennedy's argument is solid, and he shows again and again that many of our approaches to crime are done to make an electorate feel good, without changing basic dynamics that drive the drug trade…Understanding and knowledge, more than guns and handcuffs, are weapons in the war on crime that last for generations." – Seattle Times
"For the last few years, from roughly the spot on the Venn diagram of intellectual culture where Malcolm Gladwell and David Simon overlap, some intriguing flares have been set off by a crime theorist named David M. Kennedy… Kennedy’s work suggested that optimism was possible…What is brilliant about [it] is its specificity, its insistence that street violence has its own special contours and patterns that can be understood, and manipulated, and that crime is only about crime…. that maybe crime itself [can] be bargained with." – New Republic

"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
“In a matter-of-fact, street-smart style... Kennedy explains his remarkably effective strategies for combating violent crime… This heartfelt book shows what can happen when police, gangs, and communities come together to address some of America's most intractable social problems.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The good news about the drug- and gang-related violence epidemic is that it can be controlled and substantially reduced. As proof, you only have to read David Kennedy’s wonderful new book Don’t Shoot… Now being tried in over 70 communities, David’s campaign is expanding to have the national and international impact it deserves.” —Bill Bratton, chairman of Kroll, former chief of police of the Los Angeles Police Department
Don't Shoot is a work of moral philosophy that reads like a crime novel—Immanuel Kant meets Joseph Wambaugh. It’s a fascinating, inspiring, and wonderfully well written story of one man's quest to solve a problem no one thought could be solved: the scourge of inner city gang violence… This is a vitally important work that has the potential to usher in a new era in policing.” —John Seabrook, author of Flash of Genius
“Represents one of a small number of ‘big ideas’ revolutionizing crime control, especially policing and prosecution.  Shame on any city, police department, or prosecutor’s office that isn’t learning from [Kennedy’s] experience. What Don’t Shoot documents really matters.” —George Kelling, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, professor of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, and fellow in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
“Kennedy’s ideas extend beyond community policing and serve to revolutionize the entire criminal justice system.” —Garry F. McCarthy, superintendant of Chicago police
“Despite the recent and welcome decline in United States crime, gun crime remains a persistent concern in this country. Solutions to the ‘gun problem,’ fueled by ideological, constitutional, and moral debates, diverge considerably.  In Don’t Shoot, David Kennedy elegantly and forcefully describes an approach to stopping gun violence that does not depend on policing gun crime with guns or solving crime’s root causes.  Instead, his approach leans on the power of community trust in the law and officials – legitimacy.  Offenders can and do voluntarily comply with the law. When they do, neighborhoods are safer, fewer people go to prison, and policing is turned on its head.” — Tracey L. Meares, deputy dean and Walton Hale Hamilton Professor, Yale Law School
“David Kennedy’s work helped Cincinnati revolutionize the way that we think about policing our community.  His passion for solving the never-ending cycle of violence is evident in every conversation with him.  We have found that by engaging offenders with a strong, unified, community message telling them that the violence must stop and offering them an alternative life, we can have a meaningful and lasting impact in our community.  David’s work is a must read for Mayors around the country confronted with the scourge of gun violence in their cities.” —Mark Mallory, mayor, Cincinnati, Ohio
“The author brings more than two decades of practical, administrative, managerial, supervisory and academic experience to this work of art.  A unique and comprehensive view of the toxic impact of mass incarceration on our most vulnerable neighborhoods as seen through the eyes of this criminal justice professional. A must read.”    —Patrick R. Melvin, national president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE)
“The book provides a raw and unadulterated look at gang violence as well as Mr. Kennedy’s approach to combating it on a national level…  His commitment over the years has helped to save and change the lives of many youth… This is a must read for all!” —Tyrone C. Parker, executive director, Alliance of Concerned Men
“The subheading for this book, ‘The End of Violence in Inner-City America’ would be pretentious if were it not for the indisputable evidence, compelling true stories, and common sense solutions detailed therein.  Bottom line: this works.” —Reverend Kenneth Edward Copeland, New Zion Baptist Church, Rockford, Illinois

About the Author

David M. Kennedy has spent much of the last 25 years on the ground in the country's most dangerous neighborhoods, working with communities to find solutions to crime. The director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control and a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College, Kennedy has received two Webber Seavey awards from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, two Innovations in American Government awards from the Kennedy School of Government, and a Herman Goldstein Problem-Oriented Policing Award. His work has been used as a model or source for safety and drug intervention initiatives by the Clinton and Bush administrations, and by the Bureau of Justice. He also tours regularly to speak to groups that have included U.S. Congress, Scotland Yard, the National District Attorneys' Association, and the National Conference of Mayors. Kennedy lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (September 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608192644
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608192649
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #503,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are in law enforcement (I have been for over 16 years), in the criminology field, in the criminal justice system, or just someone with an interest in making your community a better place, then you must read this book. It confirms everything that we already know: most crime, particularly serious crime, is committed by a relatively few people in a relatively few places. And of those relative few, even fewer are what we would consider "hardcore." The police know those people and those places, and as Malcolm Gladwell has noted, "When a problem is that concentrated you can wrap your arms around it and think about solving it." Lately we have been trying to solve it with strategies like repeat offender programs and hot spot policing, but our efforts have generally been centered on law enforcement. In the case of repeat offenders, the call from those like Dr. Jerry Ratcliffe has been not more arrests but the right arrests. Now David Kennedy takes us to place that we didn't know about. What if we could bring down violence and eliminate drug markets without making arrests? We can. And what if it just wasn't us in law enforcement doing it but the whole community that serious crime impacts, including the offenders themselves? In can be. And what if it could work no matter where, as long we stuck to very basic principles? It does. You'll be surprised by the simplicity of the book's premise, and if you are in law enforcement, you may be a little ashamed by its truth- the concept of legitimacy. If you are going to disagree with Kennedy, that's probably where it will be, but that's also why it works.

Ultimately, compelling and groundbreaking are words that do not do this book justice, but it's both. Get it, read it, give it to someone else.

(A minor point but an important one if you are concerned about it being too academic. It reads like a story, which it is, and it must have driven the editor crazy with its almost conversational narrative style.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic and important book. On one level it is the memoir of a powerful idea that has begun to succeed against enormous odds. David Kennedy has been obsessed for more than 20 years with the tragedy of urban violence in the United States. Working at Harvard, he immersed himself in the literature of criminology. With grants of his own, he investigated Boston and listened to and translated the wisdom of street cops, probation officers, street workers, and gang members. He nurtured a focused, concentrated approach in cities across the country that dramatically reduced violent crime. As his thinking deepened and his colleagues broadened, the idea became more powerful, confronting racial mistrust and aligning the hopes of underserved communities and law enforcement. Like Paul Farmer addressed the problem of infectious disease in Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains, David Kennedy addresses urban violence from the perspective of the people affected. No one wants to live amid disease or violence. Both Farmer and Kennedy understand that the problems and the solutions are not merely technical, but profoundly human. Kennedy's book is a revelation for criminal justice, but the implications run deeper still.

Ted Heinrich
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a strange and important book, one that is exactly right about policy and practice, but that also succeeds as a work of literature---in fact, succeeds because it is a work of literature. This is not a policy wonk's list of talking points; it is experimental non-fiction of a high order.

"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.
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Format: Hardcover
Not only is this a terrific read, but it presents a startlingly simple idea for a solution to an intractable criminal justice problem that has long plagued cities and defied resolution. There are many moving parts, all hinging on the necessity of traditionally adversarial constituencies to work together. Over the past twenty five years, David Kennedy, with the collaboration of countess others, has doggedly
pursued what he felt viscerally must happen to rectify the misguided if well intentioned efforts to bring violent crime in inner cities under control.
It required the cooperation of police departments, leaders in the affected communities, the judicial system and the criminals themselves, no easy task but one that David has amazingly managed to achieve,
gradually, painstakingly gaining the trust and willingness of each of these groups. This method has been successfully employed in over seventy cities and counting.
Read this book. You'll be glad you did.
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