Groups – Braga et al. (2008)

Study Reference:

Braga, A. A., Pierce, G. L., McDevitt, J., Bond, B. J., & Cronin, S. (2008). The strategic prevention of gun violence among gang-involved offenders. Justice Quarterly, 25 (1), 132-162.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Groups; Focused; Highly Proactive; Moderately Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examined a pulling levers strategy implemented by an interagency task force as part of the US Department of Justice-sponsored Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Initiative in Lowell, Massachusetts. Key members included the Lowell Police Department, county and federal prosecutors, federal agents from the FBI and the ATF, probation and parole officers, and youth services staff. The project aimed at preventing gang-related gun violence by focusing criminal justice and social service attention on a small number of chronically offending gang members responsible for the bulk of urban gun violence problems. The PSN Task Force implemented the intervention by reaching out directly to gangs and holding notification meetings, putting them on notice that offenders face certain and serious punishment for gang violence, “pulling every lever” legally available when violence occurred (e.g., federal prosecution, law enforcement crackdowns, etc.), and focusing law enforcement on a small group of “impact players” (with Asian gangs, the task force focused on the gambling business). At the same time, efforts from various social and government organizations were made to provide resources and service to help youth escape the gang lifestyle.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The researchers examined trends in gun homicides and gun assaults in Lowell from January 1996 to December 2005 in order to determine whether gun violence declined after the program was implemented in 2002. The statistical analysis controlled for factors such as existing violent crime rate trends, population changes, and seasonal patterns. The researchers also compared gun violence trends in Lowell to those in seven other MA cities.

What were the key findings?

They found a statistically significant decrease (27.8%) in the monthly count of gun-aggravated assaults and gun homicides in Lowell after the program was implemented. This reduction was distinct when compared to gun-violence trends in other Massachusetts cities, suggesting a treatment effect that can be attributed to the intervention.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggested that problem-oriented policing can be used to good effect in controlling crime and disorder problems. In particular, the pulling levers strategy, with cooperation from communities and with a more focused deterrence approach, can be used to deal with chronic youth gang problems.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?