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Boston's Youth Violence Prevention Program: A Comprehensive Community-Wide Approach (From Policing Gangs and Youth Violence, P 53-76, 2003, Scott H. Decker, ed. -- See NCJ-201783)

NCJ Number
Jack McDevitt; Anthony A. Braga; Dana Nurge; Michael Buerger
Date Published
24 pages
This chapter examines patterns and developments in gang activity and youth violence in Boston in the years following a dramatic decrease in youth violence that resulted from a coordinated, citywide, comprehensive violence-reduction initiative.
The authors first reviewed the prior history of research into Boston gangs, including attention to the 1990's, when gang violence contributed to a significant increase in the city's homicide rate. This period was characterized by a wide range of unrelated programs that attempted to counter the violence. This was followed by the efforts of the Boston Police Department and the Boston Gun Project Working Group to draw these separate efforts into a comprehensive plan to reduce violence. The chapter describes the development and impact of Operation Ceasefire, which included two main elements: a direct law-enforcement attack on illicit firearms traffickers who were supplying youth with guns, and an attempt to generate a strong deterrent to gang violence. The latter effort deterred violent behavior by chronic gang offenders by talking directly to gangs, stating explicitly that violence would no longer be tolerated, and backing up this message by using every means possible to arrest and prosecute perpetrators when violence occurred. Youth homicide rates in Boston declined dramatically after the inauguration of Operation Ceasefire in mid-1996, and an independent evaluation determined that this decline was associated with the intervention. The model of problem solving that was developed in Boston recognizes that police efforts alone cannot solve most crime-related problems; an approach that emphasizes a broad set of partnerships is more likely to achieve a comprehensive solution than the isolated efforts of key actors. This chapter explores new developments in gang patterns and activities as a preparation for discussing the need for even more coordinated efforts and resources to prevent the cyclical return of gang-related and youth violence. In Boston, the Operation Ceasefire partners have recently renewed their strategy sessions to devise new responses to the shifting nature of the youth groups and their activities. Police officers, clergy, probation officers, and community volunteers have formed teams that make home visits to the parents and family members of those youth who have been identified by teachers and school officials as involved in, or at risk of involvement in, gangs. Efforts are in place to improve prevention interventions in schools, and several local agencies have mediated disputes as they arise. 1 figure and 45 references