Thomas Abt Photo

Thomas Abt

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy
Office Address
79 John F. Kennedy St. Littauer Bldg 203


In 2017, 17,284 people were murdered in the United States – more than 47 per day. As citizens, we do not bear this risk equally: the nation’s number one victims of violence are disadvantaged and disenfranchised young men. For African American youth, homicide is the leading cause of death, accounting for more deaths than the nine other top causes combined.

To the south, Latin American countries are home to 8 percent of the world’s population but 33 percent of its murders. Of the 20 countries in the world with the highest homicide rates, 17 are Latin American, as are 43 of the top 50 cities. There, as here, poor and politically powerless young men are the primary victims and perpetrators.

Urban violence, also described as street, gang, youth, community, or gun violence, accounts for more violent deaths than any other category of crime. It has become fashionable in some circles to describe such violence as an infectious disease, but this metaphor lacks urgency. Urban violence is better understood as a grievous injury, a gushing wound that demands immediate attention in order to preserve life and limb.

In this course, students will be introduced to life-saving treatments that can address urban violence right now, without further delay. They will work their way through the evidence, critically assessing and synthesizing material as they go. Students will approach these tasks primarily as pragmatic problem-solvers, translating theory, evidence, and data into workable policy solutions.

Students completing the course will gain a thorough understanding of the key policy issues related to urban violence and gain the skills necessary to gather, analyze, and present evidence and data in an efficient yet sophisticated manner. In short, this course will help students to “play the game” at the highest levels of policymaking so that they may advise senior decision makers and eventually join their ranks themselves.