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  • Josh Crawford

Focused Deterrence Policing Can Reduce Murder in Louisville

Displayed in her office window, Councilwoman Angela Leet has begun counting the number of shootings and homicides in the city of Louisville. The numbers are staggering. A few months after 124 homicides made 2016 the deadliest year in recent history, we are exceeding last years pace. The solution is manifold, but the first, and perhaps most important step is a focused deterrence policing strategy.

What is focused deterrence policing?

Starting with Boston’s Operation Ceasefire in the mid-1990s, focused deterrence policing strategies are policing programs that concentrate efforts on a small number of repeat offenders who exhibit a specific criminal behavior. Since the first publication of the results from the efforts in Boston, more than sixty cities have attempted focused deterrence strategies. The target population can change depending on the needs of a particular city, but in most cases the focus is on a small number of repeat violent offenders with gang or street group ties. Here in Louisville, this would be the focus of a strategy of this kind.

How it works

The first step in any problem-oriented policing strategy is working with police and researches to identify the most dangerous individuals and street groups. Resources are made available to those who wanted to change their lifestyle. This typically occurs through partnerships with churches, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies. Additional efforts are made to reach at-risk youth to prevent future involvement.

Law enforcement then communicates a set of meaningful and predictable consequences for any groups that engage in violence. After a homicide, those consequences are swiftly acted upon. Law enforcement utilizes every tool legally possible following a violent incident, and in some cases, this includes new tools via legislation like sentence enhancements.

What have the results been?

Almost universally, the results of focused deterrence strategies have had a positive impact on crime in the target population. Here are a few of the many successful examples:

Boston’s Operation Ceasefire

The pioneering focused deterrence system, implemented in 1996, saw a statistically significant 63% reduction in youth homicides, a 25% reduction in gun assaults, a 32% reduction in shots fired calls for service, and a 44% reduction in youth gun assaults in one high-risk district.

Cincinnati’s Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV)

Cincinnati had a 37.7% reduction in group-member involved homicide after 24 months and 58.6% after 42 months or a 41.4% reduction total after 3.5 years post-implementation.

Drug Market Intervention in Nashville, TN

Nashville’s focused deterrence strategy is somewhat unique in that the focus was on disrupting the drug market within the city. The program saw a 55% reduction in illegal drug possession offenses, 37% reduction in drug equipment offenses, and 28% reduction in property crimes reported in targeted neighborhood. (East Nashville)

Of particular note, is that the Nashville initiative did not have a statistically significant impact on violent crime. There was no nexus between the massive suppression of the drug market and violent crime.

Indianapolis Violence Reduction Partnership

Indianapolis’s strategy was the traditional gang and group-focused one and during the 27-month post intervention evaluation period, saw a 34% reduction in total homicide.

New Orleans Group Violence Reduction Strategy (CVRS)

Over the course of a the 12-month evaluation period, New Orleans CVRS saw 23% reduction in total homicide.

Operation Peacekeeper in Stockton, CA

In a gang-homicide focused strategy in Stockton, CA, over a 65-month post-intervention period there was a 42% reduction in gun homicide.

Project Safe Neighborhoods in Lowell, MA

Over the 39-month post-intervention period there was a statistically significant 44% reduction in gun assault incidents.


Here in Louisville, as gang and street group homicides continue to rise, a focused deterrence policing strategy would go a long way in helping turn back the wave of violence plaguing our city.

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