November 28, 2011 Dylan Ratigan

Greedy Bastards Antidote: David Banks and Hot-Spotting Education

Photo: The Eagle Academy

The Eagle Academy Foundation: Hot-spotting education in NYC and New Jersey

Is there a problem with the way we solve social problems in America?  More often than not, our problems in government and society can be traced back to behavior we call “Greedy Bastardism” — decisions that seek to exploit lack of shared visibility and breach personal and group integrity to get what one group wants over what another group needs.   On the other side, there are those out there who we consider to be the “scientists” fighting Greedy Bastardism in America — those who are finding the “Antidotes.”  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be discussing creative methods of problem solving that can help pull our country out of the mess that we’re currently mired in.

The first is called hot-spotting.  Hot-spotting was originally used in criminal justice in New York City when William Bratton, the city’s former police commissioner, revolutionized urban policing by using data to map when and where crimes took place, and then sending extra officers to the areas where crimes were committed most often.  By putting extra resources to areas with the highest crime rates, Bratton found it was possible to lower crime across New York.

This is hot-spotting: a problem solving technique that targets the most expensive problems or in-need people by allocating resources to specific problem areas as revealed by data.

Hot-spotting doesn’t only work in fighting crime — it’s a theory that can be applied to almost any issue in any sector.  I recently spoke with David Banks, founding principal of the Eagle Academy for Young Men, and president of the Eagle Academy Foundation, which runs schools for young men in the South Bronx, Brooklyn and Southeast Queens.  He is also co-chair of New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative, a bold program that works to correct problems that slow the advancement of our young black and Latino men.

“What happened in New York and all around the country as it’s related to crime and crime fighting and to have very targeted strategic responses, which ultimately resulted in record declines in crime, I mean that’s where we should be drawing our lessons from.  Very specific, very focused, very targeted,” says David.

By using hot-spotting, David and his team of educators are putting extra resources where our country needs it most: into urban environments where a systemic culture of incarceration of young black and latino men needs to be fought.

“In an increasingly competitive world, you know American society is going to really be threatened by two realities, a larger proportion of the population is going to be poorly educated and those with the education and skills most in demand will be shrinking in number as a percentage of the overall population.  So it behooves us on this issue of hot spotting in education to make sure that we are telling our elected officials and telling those who are in position to allocate funds that the funds have to be allocated in a way that they are most impactful and that the rising tide will lift all boats,” says David.

David also points to the issue of what he calls New York’s “prison pipeline.”  “You know, as an example, in the state of New York, over 70%, that’s 7-0, 70% of the inmates for the entire New York state correctional system come from seven very specific neighborhoods in New York City alone,” says David. “Even within the neighborhoods themselves, there are concentrated areas and blocks which are essentially the prison pipeline.”

David and his fellow educators at The Eagle Academy schools believe that hot-spotting can be replicated for neediest students everywhere. “You cannot just have a global response; this has to have a very targeted response at targeted neighborhoods where we know the problems are the most severe.  Not only to help the people in those communities, but when you do it in a hot spot kind of way and you are successful and you can measure that success, that becomes the inspiration that other communities can then draw from,” explains David.

To learn more abou The Eagle Academy Schools and The Eagle Academy Foundation, visit


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