This report presents an overview and evaluation of the federally funded Consent-to-Search program designed to reduce firearm-related violence by juveniles in the city of St. Louis.
To reduce the alarmingly high gun violence rates among youths, the city of St. Louis in 1994 instituted the innovative Consent-to-Search program. The program, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, was a strategic problem-solving approach to reducing gun violence by getting guns out of the hands of juveniles. It involved officers knocking on doors in high-crime areas and asking parents of high-risk youth for permission to search their homes for guns that their children might have. The guns found were confiscated, with no follow-up prosecution. In order to evaluate its success, the program was divided into three phases which corresponded to the changes in operational philosophy and approach used by police: (1) problem solving/aggressive order maintenance; (2) crime control/suppression; and (3) targeted intervention/attempted community mobilization. Evaluation highlights were presented in each phase. Phase I saw a near total rate of parental compliance in consent and a high number of guns seized. The guns seized in phase II were largely from search warrants and arrests since consent searches were not used. Phase III was far less successful than phase I with the granting of consent falling by nearly 50 percent and the number of guns seized nearly 90 percent below phase I. Due to implementation lapses and changes in program design and execution occurring in 1996 and 1998, the Consent-to-Search program evaluation suffered. The program was terminated in 1999 due primarily to the absence of a constituency, as well as a lack of community support and officer resistance in both phase II and III. Exhibits
Date Published: November 1, 2004