The National Network supports cities implementing proven strategic interventions to reduce violence and improve public safety, minimize arrest and incarceration, and strengthen relationships between law enforcement and the communities it serves.
The National Network’s Group Violence Intervention (GVI), first demonstrated as Operation Ceasefire in Boston in 1996 and subsequently in many other communities, relies on direct communication with violent groups by a partnership of law enforcement, social service providers, and community figures. Together the partnership delivers a unified antiviolence message, explains that violence will bring law enforcement attention to entire groups, offers services and alternatives to group members, and articulates community norms against violence. When GVI is properly implemented, rapid reductions in serious violence are routine. The strategy is flexible and can be adapted to any community. Different cities use different terms for GVI and effectively tailor it to local conditions, as long as cities preserve GVI’s core principles.
Readily identifiable groups of individuals commit the majority of homicides, shootings, and other acts of extreme violence. Street groups are also dramatically overrepresented as victims. For example, recent research with frontline officers in Cincinnati, Ohio, identified 60 criminal groups composed of 1,500 individuals (less than 0.5 percent of the city’s population) who were associated with 75 percent of homicides in the city—as victim, perpetrator, or both. Research in Newark, New Jersey, shows that 88 groups composed of 1,470 individuals were responsible for 57 percent of homicides in 2009–2010. Similar ratios have been found in scores of communities, large and small, across the country.
Both approaches use street outreach workers to engage with group members in an attempt to prevent retaliatory violence and offer services and alternatives to street life. However, Chicago CeaseFire relies primarily on outreach, social services, and community antiviolence events and demonstrations. The National Network’s Group Violence Intervention involves three sets of actors: law enforcement, community representatives, and social service providers. The strategy requires all three to collaborate closely and focus their efforts on the very small group of actors most likely to be perpetrators or victims of violence. Chicago CeaseFire, for a range of reasons, includes a less direct role for law enforcement. The National Network, on the other hand, makes law enforcement-community partnership a central component of GVI.
Both approaches use a combination of law enforcement, community engagement, and service provision in an effort to stem group-related violence. However, the Comprehensive Gang Model, developed by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, employs an array of strategies, including broad social intervention, opportunities provision, suppression, community mobilization, and organizational change. In an effort to solve the root causes of gang violence, the model seeks to transform the social institutions that foster gangs, such as education and economic systems. GVI relies on a smaller, more easily assembled, and narrowly focused partnership of law enforcement, community representatives, and social service providers to engage in a specific way with violent groups.
A call-in is a GVI communication tool, a meeting during which a partnership of law enforcement representatives, influential community members, and social service providers speak directly to members of street groups (usually those on probation or parole). The GVI partners use the meeting to deliver the strategy’s no-violence message to group members and, through them, back to their associates. During the call-in, the GVI partnership clearly communicates (1) a credible, moral message against violence; (2) a credible law enforcement message about the group consequences of further violence; and (3) a genuine offer of help for those who want it.
No. In fact, the GVI is unequivocally the opposite of racial profiling. The strategy is driven by data and street intelligence about individuals at highest risk for violent victimization or offending. GVI focuses on the small fraction of the community known to be involved in violence instead of profiling the entire community. The explicit aim of GVI is to keep these high-risk individuals and the community alive, safe, and out of prison. When GVI focuses on these few individuals, law enforcement can step back and the community can step forward to set its own moral standards against violence.
The typical impact is a 35 to 60 percent reduction in community-wide levels of homicides and a significant but sometimes lesser reduction in nonfatal shootings citywide. Often GVI achieves larger reductions in a specific, highly victimized demographic. Boston, for example, showed a 63 percent reduction in the monthly number of youth homicides citywide. Indianapolis, Indiana; Chicago, Illinois; Lowell, Massachusetts; Stockton, California; and other cities have experienced similar reductions. The lowest rate of impact for GVI interventions appears to be around a one third reduction in group member-involved homicides.
The strategy has three key elements that address what really drives violence on the street, including the dynamics between and within groups:
Each element of the strategy is equally important. All the pieces work together and reinforce one another.
The strategy is high activity but low enforcement. GVI works by setting and maintaining clear standards via the partnership and ideally not by employing large numbers of arrests and enforcement actions. Community representatives get a chance to tell group members, in safe settings, that their behavior is intolerable, and often the group members listen attentively. As groups come to understand that violence by one may lead to attention to all, the peer pressure that drives the violence is reversed. Many group members who also find the violence intolerable and worry about their friends and loved ones take the “honorable exit” that clear standards provide. Some will also take the social services offered.
The Drug Market Intervention (DMI) strategy is an effective approach for shutting down overt drug markets and improving life for residents of the surrounding communities. Overt drug markets are those that operate in public, whether inside or outside, and in which noncommunity members can come and buy drugs without knowing anybody; they are chaotic, violent, and do enormous damage to the community.
First employed in 2004 in High Point, North Carolina, DMI identifies particular drug markets; identifies street-level dealers; arrests violent offenders; suspends cases for nonviolent dealers; and brings together drug dealers, their families, law enforcement officials, service providers, and community leaders for a meeting that makes clear that selling drugs openly must stop. The strategy also includes a critical process of truth telling and reconciliation to address historic conflict between law enforcement and communities of color.
A wide variety of communities has implemented DMI. The following results illustrate the impact DMI can have on drug offenses, violent crime, and overall quality of life in communities that implement the strategy with fidelity to its core principles:
In High Point, North Carolina, the West End, which was the first neighborhood to test DMI in 2004, has seen a sustained reduction in violent crime. Formal evaluations have shown violent crime reductions ranging between 12 to 18 percent* and 44 to 56** percent in targeted areas relative to nontargeted areas. However, studies that found lesser degrees of sustained violence reductions over time did not assess the core issue and central objective of DMI: the disappearance of the overt markets in High Point. Subsequent operations in High Point have eliminated additional street markets.
Results such as these are common, but they hinge on a community’s ability to do the work well. Other cities have seen DMI fail to produce results when the strategy was implemented poorly.
No. Law enforcement banks cases so that drug dealers know, ahead of time and for a fact, that if they continue to deal, there will be immediate legal consequences. The banked case is not about letting dealers go or giving them a second chance. Holding the case over dealers’ heads actually puts them in a more difficult position than ordinary arrest and prosecution usually can.
No. Law enforcement is not admitting defeat, and DMI is not a negotiation. Instead, DMI creates a very powerful, very public community consensus against overt drug activity; it identifies and arrests high-level and violent dealers; it offers nonviolent dealers a way to change their lives; and it creates rock-solid legal consequences for those who decide to continue.
No. Higher-level dealers and violent offenders go to prison. Routine law enforcement simply doesn’t work for low-level dealers.
Gangs have been involved in some of the drug markets that DMI shut down, but the presence of gangs did not make any difference as a practical matter.
The dealers DMI focuses on do not make a lot of money. Research shows that most of them would be better off in minimum wage jobs.
Drug dealers frequently act as though they do not care about going to jail. But that attitude is usually bravado, expressed after they have been arrested. Dealers, just like everyone else, want very much not to go to jail. Moreover, traditional law enforcement creates uncertain sanctions for drug dealing. Dealers face little risk of being caught and even less risk of facing consequences when they are caught. DMI informs dealers ahead of time that continued dealing will lead to swift and certain consequences. Most dealers change their behavior as a result.
Not so. Community silence comes from exhaustion, anger, and fear—not complicity. The majority of people in hard-hit communities are doing the right thing. Research shows that they hate the violence and disorder even more than residents of other neighborhoods do because they live with the daily consequences. They understand that the drug markets are toxic, but they no longer expect the police to help. They may think the police are behind the drugs, and no one has offered them a way to help stop the drug markets except through jailing their own people. With the truth telling, reconciliation, and new ways of doing business that DMI brings, these community members are almost always willing to try something new.
Arresting drug dealers has not solved the drug market problem. Dealers are easily replaced or come back to the street, and the market continues.