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Dynamics of Deterrence: Youth Gun Violence in Portland

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2003
69 pages
This report discusses the design, implementation, and results of the Portland (Oregon) project to reduce gun violence among youths ages 15-24, as part of its participation in the U.S. Justice Department's STACS (Strategic Approaches to Community Safety) national initiative.
The Portland project emerged out of a sense of crisis with youth gun violence after a particularly violent summer in 1997. STACS envisioned a partnership between the U.S. attorney in a new role of leadership in cooperation with local law enforcement designed to address the most serious crime problems as perceived and defined by local criminal justice and political officials known as the Core Group (CG). The emphasis of STACS was for short-term crime control by targeting specific crimes, analyzing them and the people involved (target population), formulating intervention strategies, and measuring success in reducing crime or achieving other goals. The Portland gun violence project was based on the concept that a reduction in crime can be achieved by identifying those likely to commit specific types of crimes and then telling them that they are known to officials to be involved in those crimes; that they will be watched carefully; that any transgressions will result in immediate and strict enforcement; and that if they do desist in committing those crimes, help is available to enable them to turn their lives around. During the STACS project in Portland, none of the target population was involved in a homicide either as perpetrator or victims. Since these youths were selected as the worst offenders by experienced and knowledgeable criminal justice experts, this is a triumph for the project. In addition, the recidivism rate among these youths was substantially below that of youths who received no intervention and less than the paroled population at large. The target population, which was at high risk of recidivism upon return to the community, was much less likely to reoffend during the first year out of prison if they were participants in Project Re-Entry. Foremost among the initiatives that led to project success was the appointment of a cross-designated prosecuting attorney capable of bringing charges in either State or Federal court. The possibility of Federal charges against youths was well known in the target population, which posed the possibility of incarceration in a distant Federal prison. Fifteen recommendations for improving the ongoing project efforts are presented. 12 tables

Date Published: June 1, 2003