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Problem Solving to Reduce Gun Violence

Date Published
June 25, 2008

Gun violence prevention and intervention starts with problem solving. Problem-solving policing pushes police officials to:

  • Identify concentrations of crime or criminal activity.
  • Determine what causes these concentrations.
  • Implement responses to reduce these concentrations.

Gun violence interventions in Atlanta, Los Angeles and St. Louis shed light on how programs can fall short of their goals. Some key findings:

  • Effective partnerships require extensive commitment of time, resources and energy. Adequate resources and personal commitment sustain partner involvement. If a strong commitment is missing, other pressing events may divert resources or partners may drop out. Collaboration may require letting go of traditional jurisdictional controls and self-interests.
  • Local data prompt and focus local action. Even when it is clear gun violence is a problem within a community, hard evidence is needed to convince residents, police and policymakers to devote scarce resources to intervention programs.
  • Researchers are an integral element. They are skilled at organizing and analyzing data to help identify root causes of problems and empirically measure what works and what doesn't. Rigorous methods help isolate the specific components of success (or failure). (See Action Research.)
  • Problem solving frequently requires organizational change, which some people view as threatening. Embedded resistance to change is common; it must be overcome so it does not impede the program or change how it is implemented.

NIJ-funded gun violence interventions in St. Louis and Atlanta experienced problems resulting from lack of commitment, personnel changes and unforeseen events. [1]

Learn more about problem-solving policing from National Evaluation of the Youth Firearms Violence Initiative, an evaluation of projects funded by the Office on Community Oriented Policing.

[note 1] In St. Louis, a change in police chiefs nearly ended the highly touted Consent-to-Search program; in Atlanta, the bombing at Olympic Village diverted resources from the gun violence program. Both programs also suffered from weak follow-through by community services organizations. See Reducing Gun Violence: The St. Louis Consent-to-Search Program , by S.H. Decker and R. Rosenfeld, November 2004, NCJ 191332, and Reducing Gun Violence: Community Problem Solving in Atlanta , by A.L. Kellermann, D. Fuqua-Whitley and C. Parramore, June 2006, NCJ 209800.

National Institute of Justice, "Problem Solving to Reduce Gun Violence," June 25, 2008, nij.ojp.gov:
Date Created: June 25, 2008