What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: Baltimore bets on a new type of first responder: Librarians. After another difficult year for homicides and a pandemic that strained social services, the city is taking a novel approach to treating trauma and grief by enlisting library staff to offer direct support to scared and traumatized residents. And with its novel new training program, the city is focused on going a step further and targeting the root causes of violence. “Librarians… are the people who can bring and marshal the information to help increase the citywide knowledge, the citywide political will, to make sure we heal Baltimore in a comprehensive and authentic way,” said Lawrence Brown, a professor at Morgan State University who trained librarians this summer in techniques to de-escalate conflict, mediate grief, and help people feel better about themselves. Read the full story from J. Brian Charles

Justice Department launches probe into the Phoenix Police Department. The investigation will focus on whether the department has used excessive force, including discriminatory policing against minorities, retaliation against protesters, and poor treatment of the unhoused or people with disabilities. It’s the third such investigation of a major city’s law enforcement agency under Attorney General Merrick Garland, following similar moves in Minneapolis and Louisville. The DOJ didn’t specify whether a particular event prompted the review, but the department has previously come under fire for excessive force. At a news conference, Garland noted that treating law enforcement as a “first and last option” to addressing all social problems has contributed to the kinds of problems his office is investigating. “This makes police officers’ jobs more difficult, increases unnecessary confrontations with law enforcement and hinders public safety,” he said.

White House, state AGs discuss legal strategies to hold gun dealers, manufacturers accountable for gun crimes. The Thursday meeting with top law enforcement officials from seven states and Washington, D.C., focused in part on ways states may work around the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which largely shields gun companies from being held liable for crimes committed with their products. “One of the key things we need to do is repeal it [PLCAA], and we’re still fighting every day for that,” a White House official told USA TODAY. “But in the meantime, we’re going to be creative about talking to states about how they can use existing law to make policy change.”

Some good news: Homicide rates may be declining in some major cities. Criminologists are cautiously tracking a recent downward trend in violent crime. Boston; Cincinnati; Chicago; Dallas; Jacksonville, Florida,;Kansas City, Missouri; New York City, and St. Louis are among the major cities currently seeing a year-to-date decrease in the rate of homicides, according to data from AH Analytics. It echoes a recent presentation from criminologist Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri, St. Louis, who has observed that although homicides increased nationwide this year, there are signs that the overall rate increase is slowing.

Greg Jackson is the next executive director of the Community Justice Action Fund. Jackson and CJAF have been at the forefront of a violence prevention organizations who have pushed local, state, and federal leaders to ramp up funding for community-led solutions to gun violence and focus on the Black and brown communities that disproportionately suffer the consequences of shootings. Jackson, who has worked at CJAF for four years, now takes the reins of the organization founded by Amber Goodwin.

Lakeidra Chavis is joining The Marshall Project. The stalwart, award-winning Chicago reporter has broken story after story for The Trace, including her coverage of the rise in Black suicides in Cook County, for which she nabbed a nomination as a 2021 Livingston Award finalist. She’s also a wonderful colleague who has helped push our work forward since her first day on the team. In her new role, she’ll continue to be based in Chicago, and will report on juvenile justice and other criminal justice issues. She starts there September 13. We’re sad to see her go, but so excited for her future endeavors and wish her the best. As always, follow her on Twitter @lakeidrachavis. — Tom Kutsch, newsletter editor

Data Points

$4.5 billion — the average annual amount that Chicago, Cook County, and the state of Illinois spend on policing and incarceration. [WBEZ]

$127 million — the total earmarked by Chicago, Cook County, and the state of Illinois for violence prevention that doesn’t involve punishment or law enforcement. [WBEZ]