PROBLEM-ORIENTED POLICING TO PREVENT FIREARM-RELATED CRIME

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Problem-oriented policing may hold some promise for reducing firearm-

related violence. Problem-oriented policing works to identify why

things are going wrong and to frame responses using a wide variety of

approaches. Using an iterative focus on problem identification, analysis,

response, evaluation, and adjustment of the response, problem-oriented

policing has been applied against a wide variety of crime, fear, and disorder

concerns (Goldstein, 1990; Eck and Spelman, 1987; Braga et al., 1999).

Our review emphasizes programs specifically aimed at reducing proscribed

possession and firearm-related violence.2 Problem-oriented policing programs

to reduce firearm-related violence generally focus on reducing the

illegal possession, carrying, and use of firearms in gun violence “hot spots”

and among violent gun offenders.

While this section categorizes these types of police interventions by

whether they are primarily focused on places or offenders, in practice these

firearm-related crime prevention strategies overlap. For example, when the

police are deployed to prevent gun violence in particular places, they often

focus their attention on controlling the illegal gun behaviors of particular

individuals in that location. When police efforts are focused on preventing

gun violence by likely offenders, such as gang members, they sometimes

focus their attention on places, such as gang turf and drug market areas

frequented by these individuals. The distinction between a focus on offenders

and a focus on places matters less than the idea that the police attempt

to reduce crime and violence by strategically focusing on identifiable risks.

Policing Gun Violence Hot Spots

Place-oriented crime prevention strategies have begun to occupy

a central role in police crime prevention research and policy (Eck and

Weisburd, 1995). This idea developed from the hot-spots crime perspective,

which suggests that crime does not occur evenly across urban landscapes;

rather, it is concentrated in a relatively few places that generate

more than half of all observed criminal events (Pierce et al., 1988; Sherman

2For a recent review of problem oriented policing in general, see National Research Council

(2004).

et al., 1989; Weisburd et al., 1992). Even in the most crime-ridden neighborhoods,

crime appears to cluster at a few discrete locations, and other

areas are relatively crime free (Sherman et al., 1989). A number of researchers

have argued that many crime problems can be reduced more

efficiently if police officers focus their attention on these deviant places

(Sherman, 1995; Weisburd, 1997). Sherman and Rogan (1995) suggest

three mechanisms through which hot-spots patrol may reduce firearmrelated

crime in a targeted beat: firearms seized in high firearm-related

crime areas may have had significantly higher risk of imminent firearms

use in crimes; illegal gun carriers who are arrested may be more frequent

gun users; and the visibility of the intensive patrols coupled with increased

contacts with citizens may deter gun-carrying by those who are not checked

by the police.

Much attention has focused on using place-based policing to reduce

gun crime (Sherman, 2001). In this section, we review the evidence from the

Kansas City Gun Project and its subsequent replications in Indianapolis and

Pittsburgh. All three of these evaluations used place-oriented policing strategies

to attempt to confiscate proscribed firearms and prevent crime in gun

violence hot spots. We also briefly summarize the anecdotal evidence on the

New York Street Crime Unit.