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Fighting crime: Hire more police? Nope, pay offenders

In the past, authorities simply allocated more funds to staff more cops and enhance resources to cut down on crime.

However, D.C. is taking a different, more unconventional approach. Instead of using taxpayer funds to hire more police officers, they are using the money to pay offenders.

Last week the D.C. City Council voted to pay 50 residents a yearly stipend (totaling $9000 per year) if they attended educational, health and job training programs during the year. Eligible participants would include those whose offenses involved the use of a firearm.

The initiative comes after former federal prosecutor and current council member Kenyan R. McDuffie suggested that violent crime isn't stopped by putting people behind bars, but is combated by treating it as a public health calamity.

The unusual idea has received plenty of backlash. The D.C. Mayor disagrees and says that a tough-on-crime approach should continue, with law enforcement even given the power to perform warrantless searches of former violent offenders.

But a similar initiative in Richmond, California, is currently in progress and seems to be working. In 2008, Richmond was the 6th deadliest city for U.S. gun deaths. That same year, the stipend program was implemented and today the city has a 75 percent reduction in firearm-related homicides.

The evidence for the program is strong, but it remains to be seen whether the D.C. mayor will move forward with the initiative. Given the roughly 55 percent increase in violent crimes last year, she may not have a choice. It may be time to think outside the box.

If the program works, it may spread to larger cities like Chicago or Miami.

Featured on Dateline, John Sutton is a veteran criminal lawyer and Board Certified Trial Attorney defending South Florida against serious criminal offenses.

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