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Reducing Homicide Risk in Indianapolis Between 1997 and 2000

NCJ Number
ournal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine Volume: 5 Issue: 87 Dated: 2010 Pages: 851-864
Nicholas Corsaro; Edmund McGarrell
Date Published
14 pages

Since recent studies suggest that alternative intervention approaches that use both specific deterrence and improved pro-social opportunities show promise in reducing violent crime in high-risk contexts, the current study examined the changes in homicide patterns for the highest-risk populations in Indianapolis after a “pulling levers” intervention was implemented in the late 1990s to address youth, gang, and gun violence.


Rates of homicide risk are not evenly distributed across the U.S. population. Prior research indicates that young males in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods are particularly vulnerable to lethal violence. The traditional criminal justice response to violent crime in the urban context has the potential to exacerbate problems, particularly when broad-based arrest sweeps and general deterrence initiatives are the standard models used by law enforcement. The current study used multi-level growth curve regression models that controlled for a linear trend over time, important structural correlates of homicide across urban neighborhoods, and between-neighborhood variance estimates to show that homicide rates that involved the highest-risk populations (i.e., actors 15 to 24 years old) were most likely to experience a statistically significant and substantive reduction after the intervention was implemented (IRR = 0.48, 95 percent CI = 0.29 – 0.78). Among male actors in this age range, Black male homicide rates (IRR = 0.41, 95 percent CI = 0.25 – 0.70) and White male rates (IRR = 0.38, 95 percent CI = 0.15 – 0.79) declined substantially more than homicide rates that involved actors outside the 15 to 24 years age range (IRR = 0.95, 95 percent CI = 0.54 – 1.69). In addition, neighborhoods where specific, community-level strategies were implemented had statistically significant and substantive declines in the high-risk homicide rate. The study concluded that further extension of the “pulling levers” framework is warranted based on these findings. Alternative justice strategies that rely on the threat of sanctions coupled with strengthening social service provisions, as well as risk communication aimed at high-risk individuals, appears to hold significant promise for reducing lethal violence. 35 references (publisher abstract modified)