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From Problem Solving to Crime Suppression to Community Mobilization: An Evaluation of the St. Louis Consent-to-Search Program

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2001
27 pages
This report traced the development of an innovative problem solving initiative, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department's Firearm Suppression Program (FSP), which was intended to reduce youth gun violence.
The department performed each of the steps in the problem solving model: scanning, analysis, response, and assessment (Goldstein, 1993). A serious problem was first identified, i.e., firearm violence that involved youth. An appropriate analysis was conducted to identify the locations, nature, and outcomes of the problem. The response was designed to correspond closely to the analysis. Police officers within a special unit of the department received voluntary parental consent to search their homes for illegal firearms possessed by the parents' children. Although promising results were achieved in confiscating guns and reducing firearm violence among youth, the program in its original form was discontinued. The lack of a viable constituency combined with scant efforts at institutionalization created conditions whereby a leadership change within the department could lead to the rapid demise of the program. The activities of the "consent" program in Phase II of the FSP were unequivocally suppression and crime-control oriented. Arrests, search warrants, and intelligence usurped the original goals of the program. Phase III of the program, deemed the "community mobilization" phase because citizen input regained importance, attempted to return to the original program goals and format. Still, it did not match the achievements of Phase I. The level of consent from parents was reduced, and only a small fraction of searches netted a firearm. This report advises that, although not without its limitations, the third phase of the program offers the best chance for successful implementation and integration into departmental culture and structure of innovations such as the consent-to-search program. Lessons learned about developing and sustaining departmental program innovations are discussed. 2 tables and 20 references

Date Published: February 1, 2001