The effects of focused deterrence on gang homicide: an evaluation of Rochester's ceasefire program

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Title: The effects of focused deterrence on gang homicide: an evaluation of Rochester's ceasefire program
Author: Delaney, Christopher
Abstract: In the late 1990’s, a problem-oriented policing initiative in Boston, “Operation: Ceasefire”, achieved significant reductions in youth homicide by focusing on gang behavior. The program was driven by a concept known as “Focused Deterrence”. Gang members are typically frequent offenders for whom general deterrence mechanisms have little effect. Additionally, the social norms of gangs often encourage offending behavior, making typical attempts to deter futile. Focused deterrence attempts to modify individual behavior and group norms with a credible and severe threat of collective punishment for an individual offending behavior. In “Operation Ceasefire”, when a gang member committed a homicide, his gang was targeted for an “enforcement action” in which resources from many agencies across the criminal justice system were coordinated to severely punish the gang. Those enforcement actions were then advertised to other gangs as an example of what happens to gangs that commit homicides. The success of the Boston program encouraged other jurisdictions across the country to implement their own versions of the “Ceasefire” project. In recent years, violence in Rochester, N.Y. came to be seen as consistent with the gang driven problem described in Boston and a version of Operation Ceasefire was implemented in October 2003. This study examines the “Ceasefire” program as implemented in Rochester, NY from October 2003 to December 2004. Using an interrupted time-series research design, the author finds limited but statistically significant reductions in homicides of Black Males ages 15-30 during the Ceasefire intervention period. Despite theses finding, increases in 2005 homicides of Black Males ages 15-30 have raised concerns about the effectiveness of the program. A Postscript examines the 2005 increase and considers explanations for the increase associated with potential theoretical and operational shortcomings in the Ceasefire program.
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Date: 2006-04-04

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