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Don't Shoot: One Man, A Street…
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Don't Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in…

by David M. Kennedy

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
More than anything else, this book is about the struggle to recover communities previously considered lost--to violence, drugs, guns, etc. Kennedy's work to help unite these communities WITH law enforcement, and against violence, instead of against members of their own communities, is a revelation. Bringing together lawyers, community activists, police, churches, gang members and their families, and community members who have been affected by or frightened by the violence around them, Kennedy's task forces have cut violence in cities across the country even as individuals from across these groups have underestimated the simple logic behind the group's approaches. Leading eventually to the National Network for Safe Communities, and to bettered communities around the country, the work detailed here (in arguments, in fights, in community actions, in violence, in confrontation, and in untold discussions and political maneuvers) lays groundwork for understanding what is wrong in our communities, and working to fix it now instead of continuing to implement plans that don't work or will take decades for any improvement.

The title sounds specific, but realistically, this is one of those rare books which, in all honesty, everyone should read. Simply, it is about understanding the fragmented world we've managed to create, and about working to fix it. The accounts here are specific because that's what's necessary, at this point, before any further step can be taken. And yet, the people behind the events in this book are, without any doubt, changing the world around us--the statistics back that up. Detailing that fight can only lead to smarter decisions, and reading this book can only speed that fight, and speed the fixes yet to come.

Absolutely recommended. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Mar 20, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Received the book as part of LibraryThing Early Reviewers/Member Giveaway. I enjoyed reading 'Don't Shoot', which chronicles David Kennedy's experiences with and practical solutions to reducing violence. Kennedy makes the case that most criminals are rational ("even offenders have standards and rules"), know what they do is bad, and want to change if provided good options. Criminals, he argues, want to be respected. So do communities. By focusing on group dynamics, networks, and informal social controls, police can truly team with communities to target the really bad guys and worst markets instead of blindly arresting everyone in the community ("moving from carpet bombing to smart bombing"). Everyday criminals will see that there is a direct punishment but also a way out. Formerly violent neighborhoods will see police going after the bad guys (instead of anyone and anything), feel they are being treated fairly, and stand up to the violence and related criminal activity.

Why aren't cities and administrations clammering to try this? Good question. It sounds like a mix of politics ("gang rivalries are nothing compared to political ones") and misinterpretation of the findings have obscured the success of Kennedy's work. But it also sounds like Kennedy's efforts are gaining momentum and his National Network for Safe Communities is taking off.

It's great to read about practical, ground-level work that informs policy that translates into honest-to-goodness action. My one minor issue with the book is stylistic; Kennedy's sentences sometimes seem more like rambling stream of consciousness dumps. These sentences sometimes went on and on to the point that my mind drifted away from the core points he was trying to drive home. That's his writing style, though, and was but a minor annoyance in an otherwise informative book.
  jonasreads | Sep 11, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book cried out for a good, tough editor. While Kennedy's book was fully of interesting and intriguing tidbits, they were never tied together in a way that made for truly engaging reading. It seemed that the author couldn't decide if he was writing an autobiography of his time with the project, or if he was writing about the project itself. Settling on either option would've made this a better read. Instead, the sentence structure, full of commas and fragments, was difficult to follow. The material repeated itself. And it often seemed that Kennedy was pointing fingers and shouting "it's not my fault," when the text focused on some of the program's failures. I would've liked to read more about the cops and gang members out on the street and a lot less about a bunch of guys sitting in a room having a meeting. All in all, this book was a big disappointment and a real stuggle to finish. ( )
  dmcco01 | Jan 23, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
*Many of these reviews seem to be associated with the structure and style of Kennedy's writing. Yes, this book needed a good editor. I do not deny this and, at times, it was somewhat frustrating. However, I maintain that the quality of the work supersedes any deductions on the basis of a lack of editing. Please see the bottom of the review for more on this.

David Kennedy is nuts. You would have to be, right? That is, to try and solve violence in inner-city America; where young black men were (and still are to this day) killing themselves off and turning once-good neighbourhoods into literal war zones. Where men realize the supposed American dream more clearly and quickly on a corner than in a classroom.

It's bleak. From the outset, I didn't know what to think of the work or where it would lead me. A friend asked me to describe Kennedy's approach to crime and 100 pages in, my only answer was "he's still kind of figuring that out." And so he does. Now, why would you want to read a narrative of criminology in which the author spends his book describing the process of discovery, of experimentation, of taking a step in a direction - any direction - to try and save these neighbourhoods?

Because the truth is that we really have no idea how to solve this and it's best to start from the beginning: the so-called Boston Miracle in the mid-1990s, in which Kennedy was key to the team that drastically lowered violence in the city. We join Kennedy from his time in Boston, to trying to create a model that will work in other cities, and then successful attempts to not only expand that model but improve upon it with the knowledge from experience. By the end, we have something that works.

There will be some controversy for those who approach the book with a full cup; it may be hard for you to understand that gangsters are rational and scared kids who are often forced into their lifestyle not out of desire but necessity, or harder for others to understand that some people are just plain bad seeds who have to go behind bars. That's the fine line that Kennedy walks, a line that connects law enforcement with social services and therefore goes beyond the typical definition of 'prevention' and justly so. Many have to recognize that it's not black and white, good and evil, coddling vs. tyranny.

This book is about a strategy of communication, of reconnecting law enforcement with the communities they have given up on, and of second chances. It's a book that reminds the reader of what being human requires of him or her; to reconnect with their communities or to create that community. It also reminds us of what it takes to be a great leader, to have accomplished the things that Kennedy describes. The world requires change and the great leaders to lead that change.

This book is essentially what you would get if you took an innocent human heart, yearning for the best of mankind, seeped it into a history of academia and then forced it to endure some of the worst tragedies that mankind can deliver unto itself in the aim of ending such tragedy. The surprise is that this solitary bloody, battered, beaten and bruised heart that remains not only beats on, but rather that it beats stronger still by the book's close and no longer alone.

He's not nuts. He's exactly what we need.

*In regards to the need for a good editor:
There are various points at which not only the sheer volume of individuals that Kennedy names cause confusion (and a lack of refresher sentences on who those individuals are) but also the detail of those names as well. Example is pages 116-7; "Mary Helen Collien, fifty-six. Her daughter, Mary McNeil Matthews, thirty-nine. Her granddaughter, Makisha Jenkins, eighteen" and then, later: "They were buried in Whitesville, North Carolina, where Mary Alice McNeil, Mary Helen Collien's mother, had raised her." All of these individuals are only referred to in these two or three paragraphs, yet we are given the full four generation history of their family. It was extremely confusing at the time (and I have only just now understood the relation of Mary Alice McNeil) to the point that I was convinced Mary Alice McNeil was a factual error or typo and was meant to be one of the three previously named individuals.

While I applaud Kennedy's move away from the typical statistical graphs and charts of academia, where the statistics are used could be formalized somewhat. Admittedly, I'm not sure how - especially as I would not be keen on breaking from Kennedy's particular inner-city style, reminiscent of a gangland stream-of-consciousness narrative if it had been reflected upon, and rewritten with scholarly roots - but in my view, it required some sort of structuring. Example is page 194: "Lockwood, after a year: calls for police service down 58 percent, drug crime down 70 percent, drug calls down 81 percent." ( )
  EliYork | Jan 17, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
While David M. Kennedy presents a logical, tractable, and effective method for curbing violence and open drug markets in dangerous communities, the conversational writing style does nothing to recommend his book. Chapters become frustratingly circular, secondary characters easy to lose track off, and, at times, it's almost impossible to follow where Kennedy is and what exactly he's doing. The first half of the book reads more like notes scribbled on the back of a napkin for an informal presentation than an important treatise on violence in the United States of America. The second half, either by a slight tweaking of the style or maybe just because I'd gotten used to the tone, I found better written.

The ideas in this book are important; sadly they're going to be lost because this book is written is such a juvenile style. Perhaps this was an attempt by Kennedy to step outside the realm of academic writing and have his ideas, which I cannot stress enough are extraordinarily important with positive, long-lasting consequences, be approachable to the general public. It doesn't work. These ideas need to be presented in a more formal and structured way. I want to take this book down to a good editor and have her/him do a thorough overall of the book's content so that this book becomes the extraordinary story that is lurking underneath the ridiculous prose.

I give this book a high ranking because of the ideas espoused within. A+ for substance, but F- for structure and style. ( )
  reluctantm | Jan 8, 2012 |
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"Gang- and drug-related violence is the defining crime problem in our country, and has been for decades. The statistics are alarming and the toll incalculable, and despite countless initiatives from government, law enforcement and social service communities, little has proven effective. Still, remarkably, David Kennedy foresees what no one else could imagine: a happy ending. He has been on the front lines ever since putting together the law enforcement recipe now known as the Boston Miracle, which during the crack epidemic of the 90s cut gang and drug related violence in half. Since then, "Operation Ceasefire" has been refined and deployed- with astonishing success- in over 50 cities. With the endorsement of Attorney General Eric Holder and the National Drug Czar, Kennedy's ideas have become de facto national policy. Don't Shoot tells the story of Kennedy's long journey toward a solution. It began with listening to people on the ground, and what he heard was that there was a trust gap between law enforcement and the community. Closing that gap became the cornerstone of his approach, organizing powerful gatherings in which offenders came together with law enforcers and diverse community members and were asked to stop the violence. It's not that simple, but then again it is-the magic of the approach and of the book. Don't Shoot combines the street verite of The Wire, the social science of Gang Leader for a Day, and the moral urgency and personal journey of Fist Stick Knife Gun. But beyond that, Kennedy will show, unmistakably, that there can be real solutions"-- "Gang- and drug-related violence is the defining crime problem in our country, and has been for decades. The statistics are alarming and the toll incalculable, and despite countless initiatives from government, law enforcement and social service communities, little has proven effective. Still, remarkably, David Kennedy foresees what no one else could imagine: a happy ending. He has been on the front lines ever since putting together the law enforcement recipe now known as the Boston Miracle, which during the crack epidemic of the 90s cut gang and drug related violence in half. Since then, "Operation Ceasefire" has been refined and deployed- with astonishing success- in over 50 cities. With the endorsement of Attorney General Eric Holder and the National Drug Czar, Kennedy's ideas have become de facto national policy. Don't Shoot tells the story of Kennedy's long journey toward a solution. It began with listening to people on the ground, and what he heard was that there was a trust gap between law enforcement and the community. Closing that gap became the cornerstone of his approach, organizing powerful gatherings in which offenders came together with law enforcers and diverse community members and were asked to stop the violence. It's not that simple, but then again it is--the magic of the approach and of the book. Don't Shoot combines the street verite of The Wire, the social science of Gang Leader for a Day, and the moral urgency and personal journey of Fist Stick Knife Gun. But beyond that, Kennedy will show, unmistakably, that there can be real solutions"--… (more)

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