This article reports on a study that examined changes in homicide patterns for the highest-risk populations in Indianapolis after a "pulling levers" intervention was implemented in the late 1990s to address youth, gang, and gun violence.
Rates of homicide risk are not evenly distributed across the U.S. population. Prior research indicates that young males in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods are particularly vulnerable to lethal violence. The traditional criminal justice response to violent crime in the urban context has the potential to exacerbate problems, particularly when broad-based arrest sweeps and general deterrence initiatives are the standard models used by law enforcement. Recent studies suggest that alternative intervention approaches that use both specific deterrence combined with improving pro-social opportunities has shown promise in reducing violent crime in these high-risk contexts. In the current study, multilevel growth curve regression models controlling for a linear trend over time, important structural correlates of homicide across urban neighborhoods, and between-neighborhood variance estimates showed that homicide rates involving the highest-risk populations (i.e., actors 15 to 24 years old) were most likely to experience a statistically significant and substantive reduction after the intervention was implemented (IRR=0.48, 95 percent CI=0.29-0.78). Among male actors in this age range, Black male homicide rates (IRR=0.41, 95 percent CI=0.25-0.70) and White male rates (IRR=0.38, 95 percent CI=0.15-0.79) declined substantially more than homicide rates involving actors outside the 15 to 24 years age range (IRR=0.95, 95 percent CI=0.54-1.69). In addition, neighborhoods where specific, community-level strategies were implemented had statistically significant and substantive high-risk homicide rate declines. The study concluded that further extension of the pulling levers framework appears warranted in light of the recent findings. Alternative justice strategies that rely on the threat of sanctions coupled with strengthening social service provisions, as well as risk communication aimed at high-risk individuals, appears to hold significant promise in reducing lethal violence. 3 tables, 1 figure, and 35 references (publisher abstract modified)
Date Published: September 1, 2010
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