Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses

The table below summarizes the responses to gun violence among serious young offenders, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to 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 Requirements for a “Pulling Levers” Focused Deterrence Strategy
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
1 Enlisting community support   Helps community members to view police enforcement actions as legitimate <…police inform the community that gun violence is concentrated among groups of serious   offenders, and that they will focus their efforts on them Indiscriminate, highly aggressive law enforcement can undermine community support
2 Convening an interagency working group Combines the resources of multiple agencies to address the problem …group members’ agencies coordinate their efforts The group should include members from all relevant local, state, and federal criminal justice agencies; social services personnel should be included to offer offenders positive alternatives to their behavior
3 Placing responsibility on the working group Holds the group accountable for strategy development and implementation …the group is explicitly charged with preventing incidents This requires that the group members have a proactive, rather than reactive, mindset
4 Involving researchers Provides the working group with thorough and reliable data …researchers provide both background and strategically practical information, and evaluate performance Researchers’ findings may be helpful to other jurisdiction
5 Developing an effective communication strategy Warns potential offenders about the consequences of committing gun crimes …the message is direct and explicit, conveying clear cause and effect Nonviolent gangs and groups should be informed of what is happening to violent ones, and why; probation and parole officers can require those under their supervision to attend forums, and social service providers and community members may be able to persuade gang members to do so
Key Elements of a “Pulling Levers” Focused Deterrence Strategy
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
6 Targeting intervention Ensures that enforcement is focused on chronic offenders …police can differentiate between formerly and currently active offenders Police must avoid indiscriminately selecting gangs, groups, or individuals for intervention
7 Sending the initial message Lets violent gangs and groups know that they are under close scrutiny …police immediately increase their presence and activities in areas frequented by the gangs and groups Social service providers and community members should let would-be offenders know they support the police, and offer help to those who want it
8 Pulling all available enforcement levers Provides a variety of opportunities for criminal justice intervention …interventions are tailored to the targeted offenders’ behaviors Intervention should be harsh only to the extent necessary to stop gun crime
9 Continuing communication Reinforces the anti-gun violence message …police make it clear to violent gangs and groups that they are focusing on them because of their involvement in gun crime Police agencies should be creative in communicating with offenders (e.g., by conducting forums with them)
10 Providing social services and opportunities Diverts offenders from a violent lifestyle …consequences for continued involvement in gun violence are severe enough to compel offenders to seek positive alternatives A variety of options should be available, such as substance abuse counseling, job skills training, etc.
Disarming Young Gun Offenders
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
11 Searching for and seizing juveniles’ guns Reduces the opportunities for gun violence by eliminating the means …the affected community supports the initiative; parents/ guardians trust police and prosecutors to keep their word about criminal prosecution, and give signed consent to searches; and police base targeting on reliable intelligence about juveniles’ gun involvement This is promising, but it has not yet proved effective in reducing gun violence

Place-Oriented Responses

General Requirements for a Place-Oriented Enforcement Strategy
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
12 Enlisting community support Helps community members to view police enforcement actions as legitimate …police managers meet with community members both before and during   interventions, and demonstrate effective leadership and supervision Communities with high rates of gun violence tend to support police intervention
13 Training officers in appropriate search-and-seizure techniques Ensures that officers conduct only legally warranted searches and seizures …officers treat those they stop with respect, and explain the reasons for stops Street searches of young male minorities may be viewed as police harassment
Key Elements of a Place-Oriented Enforcement Strategy
14 Increasing gun seizures Reduces the opportunities for gun violence by eliminating the means …police focus on high-risk places at high-risk times Research has shown that, in some cases, increases in gun seizures in targeted areas have resulted in decreases in gun crime there
15 Increasing contacts with potential gun offenders Subjects would-be offenders to increased police scrutiny …police increase their visibility and contact with likely offenders within very small areas Both traffic stops and “stop and talk” contacts may be effective
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
16 Suppressing gangs without providing programs and services to address the social conditions that contribute to gang affiliation. Reduces gun violence by identifying, tracking, and aggressively enforcing laws against known violent gang members   …when based on a thorough understanding of the nature of gangs and gang violence problems in local jurisdictions and blended with social intervention, opportunity provision, and community mobilization activities Gangs and gang problems usually remain in the wake of these intensive operations; suppression programs may have the perverse effect of strengthening gang solidarity; gangs do not consider police threats to eliminate them credible; social intervention and prevention efforts are necessary complements to suppression efforts
17 Implementing gun buyback programs Reduces the availability of guns that may be used in violent crimes by reducing the overall number of guns in the community   This has not proved effective in reducing gun violence—it fails to focus on the guns most likely to be used in violent crimes