Rutgers–Camden Professor Helps to Design Innovative New Policing Strategy in Trenton

Earlier today, acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman announced that that the City of Trenton will institute a new innovative policing program called the Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy.

tuthill-featureIt’s an initiative that moves away from a purely deterrent model of policing and attempts to help repeat offenders from committing further crimes, says Louis Tuthill, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Rutgers–Camden who is serving as the research leader for the program.

“It really takes a holistic view of these offenders, taking into account not only those who are directly affected by their crimes, but their communities and the fragile families who are left behind when they are incarcerated,” says Tuthill, a resident of Haddon Township.

Under the program, targeted gang members will be provided a balanced message of deterrence – that ongoing criminal activity will be investigated and prosecuted aggressively, including through the U.S. Attorney’s Office – with the opportunity to utilize social services that can aid the individual in getting needed assistance in areas such as counseling, substance abuse treatment and employment training. The three-year program is funded by a more than $1.1 million grant from the New Jersey State Attorney General’s office and will be run jointly by Tuthill; the Trenton Police Department (TPD); and The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) Bonner Center for Civic and Community Engagement.

The Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy was developed by Tuthill in collaboration with the TPD and TCNJ, taking into account the available resources in Trenton. Tuthill had previously overseen the research for deterrent-policing strategies, such as Boston Ceasefire and Chicago Ceasefire, as a social science analyst for the U.S. Department of Justice. According to Tuthill, his prior research on these programs, which also emphasized warnings to repeat offenders, showed that they were only effective in bringing down violent crime for a 6- to 9-month period before returning to normative levels. This pioneering strategy in Trenton will thus go one step further, he says, and engage these chronic offenders and their families on an individual, family and community level.

“This strategy mirrors these other programs by telling chronic offenders, ‘If you continue down this road, we are going to arrest you, bring you up on federal charges, and put you in prison for a long time,” says the Rutgers–Camden researcher. “But we don’t want to do that.  We want to figure out how to get these individuals to stop engaging in crime. We are going to help them and their families turn their life around by focusing social services on them, and helping them to get out of a recurring situation.”

tuthillportraitTuthill stresses that career criminals – including those who desperately want to earn an income by legitimate means – often lack basic employment skills, or the ability to access available social resources. To help navigate these services, chronic offenders and their families participating in the program will be assisted by social and outreach workers, he says.

“For some of these individuals, the only business that they know is slinging drugs on the street to make enough to support their family,” says Tuthill. “They are looking to fill these fiscal or social gaps, but they don’t have the networks or skills. That is what we are trying to create for them.”

As research leader, the Rutgers–Camden scholar will monitor the progress of these individuals and their families in order to identify the community programs and services that they are accessing and are most effective. He will also collaborate with Bonner Center fellows and faculty to conduct an analysis of community-level factors contributing to violent crime in the city. Furthermore, he will work directly with community organizations to determine their effectiveness for the individuals that they serve.

Tuthill believes that ultimately the Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy will provide a model of sustainability in terms of crime reduction, unlike previous initiatives focusing strictly on deterrence. He maintains that the program will also inform further research and initiatives by discerning which elements on the individual, family and community levels had the greatest impact on positive and negative outcomes.

Dedicating his career and scholarship to serving others, Tuthill is a disabled U.S. Army veteran of the Persian Gulf War, serving in the First Brigade Combat Team, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, from 1989 to 1992. For service in medically treating Iraqi civilian casualties of war, his unit received the Humanitarian Service Medal. Tuthill then worked as an emergency room nurse in southern California, where he saw firsthand the effects of violent crime on city streets. “I would see the same chronic offenders in the hospitals,” Tuthill recalls. “These people were engaging in crime, but they were also being highly victimized as well.”

Tuthill subsequently worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the Southern California Institute on Youth Violence Prevention. While there, he was introduced to a public-healthcare approach to solving social ills, particularly with regards to juvenile delinquency. The experience opened his eyes to the inadequacies of many crime-deterrence practices. “I always found it interesting that, once somebody moved from a juvenile delinquent to a gang member, we drew this imaginary line and said we are going to arrest them, and send them up stream for the rest of their lives,” he said.

As a social science analyst for the U.S. Department of Justice, Tuthill managed and advised on a portfolio of law-enforcement issues, including gangs, drug markets, firearm trafficking, evaluation research, terrorism, and neighborhood and violent crime.  His research continues to focus on community-level factors which contribute to violent crime across various domains, including families, schools, communities, peer groups, businesses, availability of social services, and the physical environment.

Posted in: Research Highlights

Comments are closed.