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Seattle programs to prevent crime might do opposite

The City of Seattle spends millions of dollars each year on programs designed, in part, to prevent crime. But a new audit concludes some programs might actually increase crime.

The city auditor, working with George Mason University’s Center for Crime Prevention Programs, analyzed 63 programs funded by the city. While the city spent $13.2 million contract dollars on the programs, the auditor concluded that more than half of the programs lacked evidence of their effectiveness.

The analysis included a comparison of city of Seattle crime prevention programs to similar programs across the country where research exists on their effectiveness.

The analysis concluded 17 of the Seattle programs have a strong to moderate impact on crime while 35 programs offered mixed results. But the audit suggests that three programs might increase crime, including a gang prevention program, a school emphasis officer program and one dealing with truancy.

The auditor recommends the city work to prevent what the report calls “potential backfire effects” with rigorous reviews of its crime prevention programs, some of which are already underway.

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