The federal infrastructure law’s untapped potential for promoting community safety

By Sam Washington, Hanna Love, and Thea Sebastian, Brookings, March 29, 2022

“Rather than revert to punitive policies that have proven to be ineffective and counterproductive, policymakers should follow the evidence and take a deeper look at new sources of funding that could be used to promote a more holistic vision of community safety.

“[N]ew federal funding opportunities — including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) — offer local leaders an unparalleled opportunity to explore [infrastructure and the built environment as a tool to promote community safety].

“A wealth of empirical evidence demonstrates that the built environment has a significant impact on the prevalence of violence in communities. Brookings recently reviewed the evidence on this relationship, finding that several key physical interventions can lead to reductions in rates of violent crime.

“For instance, relatively simple changes to street and sidewalk design can lower rates of violence.

“[O]f the five factors studied by Raj Chetty’s Opportunity Insights team, shorter commute times in a given neighborhood were found to be the strongest predictor of upward mobility. Consequently, public transportation investments have been shown to reduce local inequality, which evidence shows to be a driver of property and violent crime.

“To better equip local leaders with the evidence and resources to promote safety through the IIJA, Civil Rights Corps recently released a policy guide, Harnessing Infrastructure Grants for Community Safety, that provides a roadmap for explaining exactly how policymakers can leverage these funds to make holistic, evidence-based investments into community safety.”

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