Groups – Fox & Novak (2018)

Study Reference:

Fox, A. M., & Novak, K. J. (2018). Collaborating to reduce violence: the impact of focused deterrence in Kansas City. Police Quarterly21(3), 283-308.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Groups; Focused; Highly proactive; Moderately rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examined the effects of focused deterrence on homicides and gun violence in Kansas City, MO as part of the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA), which was implemented from 2014 to 2016. The KC NoVA aimed to reduce homicides and aggravated assaults committed by chronic violent offenders from organized groups or other delinquent social networks through multiagency collaboration between law enforcement, social services, and community organizations. Focused deterrence is a strategy that uses communication techniques, peer pressure, stringent sanctions, and social services to deter high-risk groups or gang members from violent crime.

Frontline police and probation officers first participated in group audits to identify and locate the target population by sharing and documenting what they knew about current violent groups, their members, relationships, and activities. The targeted offenders or group members were then invited to face-to-face meetings with law enforcement personnel, community members and social service providers. About 13% of targeted group members attended the call-in meetings through the 3-year intervention period. In the meetings, criminal justice officials delivered a clear message that certain and severe penalties would be imposed if these high-risk group members engaged in future violent crimes. The enforcement actions include arrests, warrants, submission of cases to federal courts, administrative jail sanctions, and enhancement of probation terms. For those who committed to nonviolence, service providers would offer them an array of services and referrals for education, employment, job training, resume/application/email assistance, substance abuse, mental health, conflict resolution, anger management, housing and transitional living assistance, and medical/dental assistance.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The authors employed time-series analyses to examine whether monthly rates of homicides, group member-involved homicides, and non-domestic gun aggravated assaults during the post-implementation period (1st, 2nd, and 3rd year post-implementation) were different from the rates during the 5-year pre-implementation period. Trends in Kansas City were then contrasted with trends in a control group that was based on data from several other cities (combined and weighted based on their similarity to Kansas City).

What were the key findings?

The focused deterrence approach was associated with significant reductions in homicides, group member-involved homicides, and non-domestic gun aggravated assaults during its first year. These effects, however, diminished for all three types of violent crime during the second and third year of implementation. In fact, gun-involved aggravated assaults significantly increased in the third year. Similarly, Kansas City had 21% fewer homicide incidents in 2014 compared to the control group. In 2015, however, the Kansas City homicide rate was only 1% lower than that of the control group, and the city’s homicide rate was 22% higher than that of the control group in 2016.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

This study suggests that focused deterrence strategies have short-term deterrent effects on homicides, group member involved homicides, and gun-related aggravated assaults. Particularly, the collaboration between law enforcement officials, social service providers, and community organizations can be effective in reducing violent crimes committed by high-risk group members in the short run. Offenders might learn to adapt over time to focused deterrence strategies. Thus, practitioners might need to be more alert and innovative instead of entirely relying on the repetition of tried-and-true actions.

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