Community safety is multidimensional. It can include everything from affordable housing and accessible green spaces to well-paying work and strong community connections. But efforts to build this kind of safety are too often evaluated only using data generated by the criminal legal system.
The criminal legal system generates a mass of information, much of it easily accessible to researchers. Programs that operate in tandem with that system are easier to evaluate and can attract more attention from funders and policymakers. But given the narrow focus of criminal justice data on the risks of criminal behavior, one individual at a time, it can be a poor lens on work that seeks to build change at the community level.
A new paradigm is needed: not just new methodologies and metrics, but more community involvement in crafting both, and new, more nuanced stories about the data that is collected.