In “What Works in Reducing Community Violence,” a 2016 systematic review commissioned by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Thomas Abt and Christopher Winship identified NNSC’s focused deterrence approach as demonstrating the most significant impact on violence reduction and recommended that “…funders could launch a multi-site experiment of focused deterrence across the three countries in the [Northern Triangle] region.” In 2018, USAID commissioned a feasibility study from the NNSC to determine whether its strategies could help lower violence and strengthen communities in El Salvador. This study was conducted in three municipalities across El Salvador.
The dynamics of group violence in El Salvador are extreme. The level and scale of group organization combined with the social, political, and economic landscape makes disrupting group violence a complex task. In addition, group members and the general population have been exposed to serious levels of trauma. However, similar to other contexts of urban violence, fewer than 1% of the population in each municipality studied was found to be driving the majority of community violence. This core finding is crucial to thinking about the applicability of NNSC’s strategic violence interventions. It shifts the problem from one that feels overwhelming to one that is concrete and approachable.