U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Fighting Urban Crime: The Evolution of Federal-Local Collaboration, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2003
19 pages
Publication Series
This document examines how Federal collaboration with local law enforcement authorities has evolved during 20 years of joint crime fighting against drugs, illegal weapons, and gangs.
This study also examined particular collaborations in three cities: San Diego (California), Detroit (Michigan), and Memphis (Tennessee). Until the 1980's, long-term operational collaboration between local law enforcement and Federal authorities was quite rare. Federal and local authorities generally operate under formal agreements or negotiated procedures, share some operational leadership, consult frequently on jurisdiction, and coordinate on objectives. Most federally led collaborations involve long-term investigations of criminal organizations. Prosecution under Federal criminal statutes offers several powerful advantages: Federal grand jury, immunity, search warrants, preventive detention, electronic surveillance, witness protection, accomplice testimony, and discovery. Although collaboration has probably increased the number of Federal drug, firearms, and gang prosecutions, the magnitude of this increase is difficult to determine because aggregate statistics on Federal prosecutions do not track whether a case was developed through collaborative work. The impact of collaboration on urban communities is hard to ascertain because of how difficult it is to link changes in crime to specific law enforcement activities. Researchers found that collaborations have had considerable success, particularly against gangs. Collaborative work led to the disruption or breakup of several long-entrenched gangs in the three cities studied. Reductions in violent crime have been attributed partly to aggressive firearms prosecutions by task forces. The use of Federal firearms charges in prosecuting particularly dangerous individuals and gangs encouraged the criminal community to keep guns off the street. Interjurisdictional collaboration appears to have promoted better problem solving and intelligence sharing, as well as improved officer safety. It has permitted specialization against particular targets and increased funding to pay for informants, evidence, and overtime. Federal-local law enforcement collaborations usually have high-level agency commitment and sustained funding; clear ultimate legal authority; joint Federal-local leadership; and co-location of Federal and local law enforcement personnel promoting loyalty and teamwork. 5 notes

Date Published: December 1, 2003