Around 120,000 homicides occurred in US cities in the past decade. As the average victim dies 54 years prematurely, this is a loss of 6.5 million years of life. Much of this loss is preventable. Programs such as Cure Violence Global and Group Violence Intervention consistently reduce homicide and shooting levels by more than 50% in sites for which they can obtain funding. If scaled up with a portion of the savings they create re-invested in them in 50 highly affected US cities, they could save around 20,000 lives: more than one million years of life.
Except in a few notable cases, these programs are reliant on small, periodic, capped, activity grants. This Captivity means they can often only operate on a few small Sites per city, regardless of how many lives they save on those Sites and how often they prove their effectiveness.
There have been many credible research reports on the cost of urban homicide and non-fatal shootings over the past 15 years. McCollister, French and Fang set out the average of much of that research in the US and they showed the direct cost of a homicide to government was nearly $1.3m. The total cost to society was much higher at nearly $9m.
Cure Violence mini documentary
Urban violence is much more localised and preventable than many realise. Typically, most homicides occur on 1-2% of street blocks and amongst a small network of at-risk young men who make up less than 1% of a city’s population. Effective programs work in these locations and with the young men at-risk of involvement.
For example, the evidence is clear that the Cure Violence model works and it has been demonstrated through independent, external evaluations. These evaluations are all available on the Cure Violence Impact webpage. Some examples in summary:
The model has proven that it can scale up within cities and to new cities. For instance, it has scaled up in New York City, where it went from only one to over 25 intervention communities and in Chicago, where it went from one to 15 communities in four years.
There is a large body of research into the cost of homicide on communities and different levels of government. These costs include direct costs mainly borne by governments for the: prison sentences, police investigation and court process. There is also lost wages for the victim and the perpetrator(s). The remaining costs indirect costs of a homicide: loss of property tax revenue, increased insurance premiums and decreased economic activity. Because of this range of impacts, homicide has a much higher cost than any other crime: on average 51 times higher than an armed robbery and 420 times higher than a burglary.
The government cost is mainly by the City Government (some prison and justice costs, along with loss of property tax) and State Government (most of the police, justice and prison costs), with the Federal Government having a smaller share. Research by the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform looks at costs borne directly by the different levels of government for a homicide and non-fatal shooting. In a series of studies of six US cities, they found the lowest government cost for an urban homicide was in Mobile, Alabama at $765K and the highest was in Stockton, California at $2.5 million. While the share of cost between the City and State Government depends on a range of factors including the number of shooters in an incident, Save a Million has an average starting point of a 50/50 split of costs between City and State, meaning that on average every two urban homicides costs each level of government $1.3m.
Other research looks at additional large costs. A report by the Center for American Progress on the costs of violent crime to eight US cities focuses more on the impact on housing values and finds similar effects in each city. The City of Philadelphia has gone one step further and in 2019 published a report on the financial losses through lost property tax revenue the city has sustained due to homicides. The report found that on average, eliminating one homicide would lead to a 2.3% increase in sale prices in the immediate neighborhood. Further, reducing homicides by 10 percent annually for five years translates to a total increase of $114 million in property tax revenue. That is a saving of $358K for every homicide prevented solely through lost property tax revenue.
In an editorial last year, a group of City Aldermen acknowledged that if Chicago re-invested in violence prevention a proportion of the $3.5 billion it spends annually in response to urban violence they would save taxpayers billions of dollars every year.
Applying that approach to urban homicide means starting with the following Save a Million Card:
This Card can be adapted for each interested homicide prevention program provider and for each of their target cities.
Template proposal, contract and other technical details will be added shortly.
Responding to deadly incidents is extremely costly. As shown in this example, when debt increases governments often cut prevention grants. Doing so to effective programs increases premature death which adds further costly response.
Repaying an agreed portion of savings means that programs can operate to the extent that they can be successful. The more lives they save, the more cost they save.
The number of lives that would be saved over 8 years by reducing homicides in 50 cities with high rates by 10% per year. As the average homicide in the US is 54 years before life expectancy, this is a saving more than a million years of life.
The cost borne by City and State Government for each urban homicide in the US. The cost of prevention is much less.