Thomas Abt

Thomas Abt

Senior Research Fellow, CID
Innovation in Citizen Security Project, CID
Thomas Abt

Thomas Abt is a Senior Research Fellow with the Center for International Development, where he leads CID’s Security and Development Seminar Series. He is also a member of the Campbell Collaboration Criminal Justice Steering Committee, member of the Advisory Board of the Police Executive Programme at the University of Cambridge, and a Senior Fellow with the Igarapé Institute in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Both in the United States and globally, Abt writes, teaches, and studies the use of evidence-informed approaches to reduce urban violence, among other criminal justice topics. His forthcoming book, Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence - and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets, was published by Basic Books in June 2019. Abt’s work is frequently featured in major media outlets such as the Atlantic, Economist, Foreign Affairs, New Yorker, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, and National Public Radio.

Before joining Harvard, Abt served as Deputy Secretary for Public Safety to Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York, where he oversaw all criminal justice and homeland security agencies, including the Divisions of Corrections and Community Supervision, Criminal Justice Services, Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and the State Police. During his tenure, Abt led the development of New York’s GIVE (Gun-Involved Violence Elimination) Initiative, which employs evidence-informed, data-driven approaches to reduce gun violence.

Before his work in New York, Abt served as Chief of Staff to the Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he worked with the nation’s principal criminal justice grant-making and research agencies to integrate evidence, policy, and practice. He played a lead role in establishing the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, a network of federal agencies and local communities working together to reduce youth and gang violence. Abt was also founding member of the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, a place-based development effort that was recognized by the Kennedy School as one of the Top 25 Innovations in Government for 2013.

Abt received a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Michigan and a law degree with honors from the Georgetown University Law Center.

Selected Publications and Relevant Work


Article: This Man Says His Anti-violence Plan Would Save 12,000 Lives – Why Aren’t More Cities Using It?
Article: Walmart’s Announcement and Other Signs of Hope in the Gun Crisis
Op-Ed: Democrats are Skipping Out on the Most Important Gun Fight of All
Interview: Thomas Abt Talks New Book On Urban Violence, 'Bleeding Out'
Op-Ed: To Cut Urban Bloodshed, Focus on Violent Hot Spots
Book: Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence - and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets
Article: The Real Killer: Fighting the Scourge of Everyday Violence

White Paper: What Works to Prevent Violence Among Youth?
Interview: A Look at the National Picture of Gun Violence in the U.S.

Interview: When Crime Data Becomes Politicized
Op-ed: How Not to Respond to the Rising Murder Rate
Article: Towards a Framework for Preventing Community Violence Among Youth

Podcast: The Science of Reducing Violence
Op-ed: Here's how to combat violence in the U.S.
Book chapter: Evidence-Informed Criminal Justice Policy: Looking Back, Moving Forward
Interview: A researcher explains the sad truth: we know how to stop gun violence. But we don't do it.
USAID Report: What Works in Reducing Community Violence
Op-ed: A Most Violent Year

Contact Information

Mailing Address
John F. Kennedy School of Government
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138