Among recent efforts to contain gun violence in Boston, Mass., a "problem solving" project was launched to devise and implement strategic interventions and evaluate their effectiveness.
The project's unique approach has focused on first analyzing the supply and demand for guns and then trying unorthodox methods both to disrupt illicit firearms markets and deter serious youth violence. For more than a year, Harvard researchers have been meeting biweekly with a working group whose members include representatives of the Boston Police Department, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, the Massachusetts Department of Probation, and city-employed gang outreach and mediation specialists ("street workers"). The project team reasoned that interventions would need to decrease both the supply of and demand for guns that were central to the "shooting wars" among criminally active gangs. In one particularly violent gang neighborhood, the police, probation and parole officers, and street workers delivered a clear message that unless the shootings stopped and guns were relinquished, gang members would be subject to an intense level of scrutiny; and for those on probation and parole, severe personal restrictions would be imposed. Gang members were told that drug markets would be shut down, warrants would be served, the streets would swarm with police officers, bed checks would be performed on probationers, rooms would be searched by parole officers, unregistered cars would be towed, and disorder offenses would be punished. When a number of gang members experienced the consequences of this policy, other gang members turned over their handguns, and the neighborhood became quiet. The project team is seeking the same results in other gang territories.
Date Published: March 1, 1997
Popular TopicsGang violence Gangs Gun control Gun violence Homicide
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