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Tactics That Can Reduce Gun Violence

Date Published
June 30, 2008

NIJ researchers have identified several intervention tactics that, if implemented properly, successfully disrupt or prevent offenders and potential offenders from illegally acquiring and using firearms. The researchers use special terms to describe these tactics, outlined below.

Suppression and Deterrence

Interventions to stop or reduce gun violence within a community involve either suppression or deterrence. The most successful interventions do both by integrating tactics first developed in Boston (see Project Ceasefire and Focused Deterrence) and expanded upon by other cities. These tactics are:

  • "Retailing" — Retailing is deterrence intended to prevent crimes from happening.
  • "Levers"/"Pulling Levers" — Preventing violent behavior or gun use by exploiting a targeted individual or groups' vulnerability to law enforcement to get them to comply. Levers involve suppression or the threat of suppression — increased police presence and use of harsh measures or sanctions against high-profile offenders.

Retailing and lever pulling are accomplished using "carrots and sticks" — the simultaneous use of incentives and hardball law enforcement to show gang members or other targets of the intervention that the police and the community are serious, while offering alternatives to criminal behavior.

An example of an effective stick is threatening federal prosecution for illegal possession — not use — of a weapon. Boston retailed to gang members that police were using this stick by posting announcements about the two-year imprisonment of a leading gang member for carrying a gun.

A lever used to make gang members desist from violence is the threat of holding all of them accountable for violence committed by any one of them.

Carrots provided by these programs are usually free access to services such as job placement and counseling. This requires considerable commitment by the local community to ensure that youth receive viable alternatives to violence and crime.

Project Safe Neighborhoods continues to refine and implement these tactics nationwide.

Date Published: June 30, 2008