Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses to Drive-by Shootings

The table below summarizes the responses to drive-by shootings, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they should work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

General Considerations for an Effective Response
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
1 Focusing on proximate causes Addresses those factors that make drive-by shootings easier to carry out; frustrates shooters’ intention …responses target the tools and situations that give rise to the problem Does not address the underlying factors that contribute to interpersonal violence, gang membership, or the facilitating influence of alcohol and drugs
2 Targeting the activity, not the individual Avoids conferring additional status on gang membership; avoids increasing group cohesiveness …responses focus on the harm caused by the behavior rather than the group membership of the people causing the harm Requires a narrow focus on a specific behavior and may leave other problems unaddressed
3 Understanding gang membership dynamics Focuses efforts on the motivations and current tensions that motivate drive-by shootings …quality information on local gangs is available Requires close, candid communication between gang units and officers combating the drive-by shooting problem
Specific Responses To Reduce Drive-By Shootings
Reducing the Availability or Prevalence of Weapons
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
4 Conducting crackdowns Enhances police visibility; deters potential offenders from carrying guns; incapacitates potential offenders when police seize weapons …specific offenses, places, and offenders are targeted; its directed by crime analysis; those likely to commit gun violence drive, rather than walk Can waste time and resources if large numbers of guns are not seized; can have a negative effect on police-community relations
5 Initiating “sweeps” targeting known offenders Incapacitating high-risk offenders by removing tools used to commit violence …high-risk offenders are carefully targeted; offenders do not rearm themselves Interagency collaboration can be challenging; reductions are likely to be short term; can be difficult to agree on most-high-risk offenders; can be perceived as harassing offenders who are complying withsupervision conditions
6 Obtaining consent to search for and seize weapons Sends message that the police and the community will not tolerate gun possession; incapacitates gun owners by removing tools used to commit violence …a low-key approach is used; great care is taken to ensure that consent is truly voluntary; the department places priority on reducing gun availability rather than prosecuting those who have guns; the program is of sufficient size to ensure that the number of weapons seized will affect the crime rate Can aggravate some of the conditions it is intended to alleviate (e.g., rebellion against parents); youth may rearm themselves; will not reduce crimes adults commit
Identifying Situations With the Potential for Violence
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
7 Tracking current tensions and past altercations Allows police to identify and intervene in situations with the potential for lethal violence …information is properly organized so patterns can be identified; local gang dynamics are understood; skilled mediators are available Need dependable sources of intelligence; need to be able to respond immediately to crisis situations; may legitimize gang membership; information needs to be continually updated; can be difficult to sustain analysis
8 Coordinating with hospitals Increases the likelihood of victim identification and understanding victims’ relationships to offenders …a simple communication procedure is established; police are dispatched to hospitals when victims are not known to them Need to negotiate legal barriers to sharing medical information; could deter victims from seeking medical attention
9 Preventing high-risk people from riding in cars with each other Allows police to intervene in situations that could result in a drive-by shooting ...people likely to participate in drive-by shootings can be identified; police are notified when named people are seen in a car together Injunctions have faced First Amendment challenges for prohibiting otherwise legal activities; injunctions are difficult and time-consuming to set up; probation and parole conditions must be enforced to carry a deterrent value
Making Environmental Changes
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
10 Closing streets Controls access to targets; decreases offender mobility; increases defensible space …supported by police and citizen patrols; offenders come from outside of the targeted area Addressing the concerns of various stakeholders requires significant time and effort; the effects are likely to evaporate if barriers are removed; rival gang turf may not be clearly identified
Responding to Incidents and Increasing Sanctions
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
11 Deploying response teams Provides rapid response to crime scenes; affords the opportunity to interceptretaliation plans …assigned officers have expertise in local gang dynamics; residents trust assigned officers Special assignments take officers out of regular patrol rotation; witnesses may remain unwilling to cooperate
12 Creating witness incentives Increases the likelihood that police will identify offenders; affords the opportunity to intercept retaliation plans …community norms discouraging cooperation are addressed; expensive resources are conserved for witnesses at greatest risk Must have resources for monetary incentives and relocation; community outreach efforts require time and patience
13 Implementing a “pulling levers” focused deterrence strategy Makes a clear connection between involvement in gun violence and consequences imposed; exploits the social structure of gangs by holding the group responsible for individual behavior …a daunting array of sanctions and a tempting array of services are available Strategy based on collective responsibility may not be effective if gangs are not cohesive; interagency coordination requires significant time and effort
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
14 Targeting gun traffickers Assumes offenders procure guns from organized dealers   Does not focus on the sources of guns most likely to be used in drive-by shootings
15 Implementing “gun buyback” programs Assumes reducing gun ownership will lead to decreases in gun violence   Those willing to relinquish weapons are not the people likely to commit drive-by shootings; does not focus on the guns most likely to be used in drive-by shootings
16 Teaching conflict resolution skills Assumes skills learned in a classroom setting will transfer to situations with high emotional states and bystander encouragement   Classroom-based skill development does not mimic the actual conditions under which the skills will need to be applied
17 Restricting entry to high-risk neighborhoods Controls access to high-risk places   Likely to incur very strong opposition from residents and business owners; raises serious Fourth Amendment concerns
18 Impounding cars that are not properly registered Removes one of the tools needed to conduct a drive-by shooting   Likely to capture people who are not at risk of conducting a drive-by shooting; low weapons yield makes it difficult to justify the expenditure of resources