Focused deterrence strategies effects on crime: A systematic review

Anthony A. Braga*, David Weisburd, Brandon Turchan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations
Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere1051
JournalCampbell Systematic Reviews
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research for the original version of this review was supported through funds provided by the National Policing Improvement Agency, United Kingdom. The authors did not receive any financial or other support for the completion of this updated review.

Funding Information:
Barnes, J. C., Kurlychek, M. C., Miller, H. V., Miller, J. M., & Kaminski, R. J. (2010). A partial assessment of South Carolina's Project Safe Neighborhoods strategy: Evidence from a sample of supervised offenders. Journal of Criminal Justice , 38 (4), 383–389. Berk, R. A. (2005). Knowing when to fold ‘em: An essay on evaluating the impact of Ceasefire, Compstat, and Exile. Criminology and Public Policy , 4 (3), 451–465. Boyum, D. A., Caulkins, J. P., & Kleiman, M. A. (2011). Drugs, crime, and public policy. In J. Q. Wilson & J. Petersilia (Eds.), Crime and public policy (pp. 368–410). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Braga, A. A., McDevitt, J., & Pierce, G. L. (2006). Understanding and preventing gang violence: Problem analysis and response development in Lowell, Massachusetts. Police Quarterly, 9 (1), 20–46. Decker, S. H., Huebner, B. M., Watkins, A., Green, L., Bynum, T., & McGarrell, E.F. (2007). Project safe neighborhoods: Strategic interventions. Eastern district of Missouri: Case study 7 . Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice. Engel, R. S., Baker, S. G., Tillyer, M. S., Eck, J., & Dunham, J. (2008). Implementation of the Cincinnati initiative to reduce violence (CIRV): Year 1 report . Cincinnati, OH: University of Cincinnati Policing Institute. Engel, R. S., Tillyer, M. S., & Corsaro, N. (2013). Reducing gang violence using focused deterrence: Evaluating the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). Justice Quarterly , 30 (3), 403–439. Engel, R. S., Tillyer, M. S., Dunham, J., Hall, D., Ozer, M., Henson, B., & Godsey, T. (2009). Implementation of the Cincinnati initiative to reduce violence (CIRV): Year 2 report . Cincinnati, OH: University of Cincinnati Policing Institute. Hawken, A., & Kleiman, M. A. (2009). Managing drug involved probationers with swift and certain sanctions: Evaluating Hawaii's HOPE . Final report submitted to the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice. Kennedy, D. M. (1997). Pulling levers: Chronic offenders, high‐crime settings, and a theory of prevention. Valparaiso University Law Review , 31 (2), 449–484. McCall, P. L., Land, K. C., & Parker, K. F. (2011). Heterogeneity in the rise and decline of city‐level homicide rates, 1976–2005: A latent trajectory analysis. Social Science Research , 40 (1), 363–378. McGarrell, E. F., & Chermak, S. (2003). Strategic approaches to reducing firearms violence: Final report on the Indianapolis violence reduction partnership . Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice. Meares, T., Papachristos, A. V., & Fagan, J. (2009). Homicide and gun violence in Chicago: Evaluation and summary of the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program . Retrieved from‐EvaluationandSummaryoftheProjectSafeNeighborhoodsProgram‐2009.pdf Novak, K. J., Fox, A. M., Carr, C. M., McHale, J., & White, M. D. (2015). Kansas City, Missouri smart policing initiative: From foot patrol to focused deterrence . Smart Policing Initiative Spotlight Report. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance. Piehl, A. M., Kennedy, D. M., & Braga, A. A. (2000). Problem solving and youth violence: An evaluation of the Boston Gun Project. American Law and Economics Review , 2 (1), 58–106. Skogan, W. G., Hartnett, S. M., Bump, N., & Dubois, J. (2008). Evaluation of CeaseFire‐Chicago . Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice. Tita, G., Riley, K. J., & Greenwood, P. (2003). From Boston to Boyle heights: The process and prospects of a “pulling levers” strategy in a Los Angeles barrio. In S. H. Decker (Ed.), Policing gangs and youth violence (pp. 102–130). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Venkatesh, S. A., & Levitt, S. D. (2000). “Are we a family or a business?” History and disjuncture in the urban American street gang. Theory and Society , 29 (4), 427–462. Wakeling, S. (2003). Ending gang homicide: Deterrence can work (Perspectives on Violence Prevention No. 1). Sacramento, CA: California Attorney General's Office/California Health and Human Services Agency. For a complete list of cities supported by the National Network for Safe Communities, go to (last accessed May 24, 2019). ). The previous iteration of this systematic review did not include studies with one‐group‐only interrupted time‐series design designs. As will be shown below, the updated review identified only one such study (Delaney, These journals were: Criminology, Criminology & Public Policy, Justice Quarterly, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Journal of Criminal Justice, Police Quarterly, Policing, Police Practice and Research, British Journal of Criminology, Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Crime & Delinquency, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, and Policing and Society. Hand searches covered 1979–2015. Ms. Phyllis Schultze of the Gottfredson Library at the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice assisted with the initial abstract search and was consulted throughout on our search strategies. Maintained by the Gottfredson Library at the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice. The now‐defunct Campbell Collaboration Social, Psychological, Educational and Criminological Trials Register was consulted for the original version of this systematic review.‐size‐calculato.html . . ) has argued that there is often little difference in methodological quality between published and unpublished studies, suggesting the importance of searching the grey literature. The grey literature is a term applied to sources of information that are not commercially published and is typically composed of technical reports, working papers, government and agency reports, and conference proceedings. Wilson ( During the development of this report, the New Haven study was accepted for publication at Crime & Delinquency and the Roanoke study was accepted for publication at Journal of the American Statistical Association. summarizes the characteristics of the key focused deterrence evaluation identified through the varied search processes. Five evaluations had companion quasi‐experimental analyses that supported the program impact conclusions presented here: Boston Ceasefire I (Piehl et al., ), Boston Ceasefire II (Braga, Apel, & Welsh, ), Chicago PSN (Wallace, Papachristos, Meares, & Fagan, ), High Point DMI (Corsaro, ), and Indianapolis (Corsaro & McGarrell, ). In addition to the Corsaro et al. ( ) evaluation, the RAND Corporation completed an independent evaluation of the High Point DMI using a synthetic control quasi‐experimental design (Saunders et al., ). The RAND evaluation found a slightly stronger impact of the DMI program on targeted outcomes. They find that in the year following a DMI, calls for service decreased 16% and violent crimes decreased 34%, on average, compared to synthetic control markets. The RAND evaluation also found no evidence of statistically significant crime displacement or diffusion effects after a DMI was implemented. Table The National Network for Safe Communities raised concerns to the RAND Corporation over the treatment fidelity of the DMI programs that were sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance and implemented under the guidance of a technical assistance team from Michigan State University. One key concern centered on the absence of reconciliation efforts between police and affected communities on perceived harms associated with prior drug control tactics. Reconciliation is viewed as a critical component of developing the necessary community support needed to exert informal social control over drug sellers in targeted overt drug markets. Further concerns involved unclear definitions of the drug market areas to be targeted for intervention, a lack of opportunity and resources available to targeted dealers with banked cases, and other implementation issues. Personal communication with David Kennedy on February 25, 2017; Memorandum on “DMI Integrity” from David Kennedy to Beau Kilmer and Mark Kleiman, November 17, 2015. Random effects models were used to estimate the overall standardized mean effect sizes. For the largest effect size meta‐analysis, Q  = 152.740, df  = 23, p  < .05, Tau 2  = 0.093. For the smallest effect size meta‐analysis, Q  = 109.537, df  = 23, p  < .05, Tau 2  = 0.062. These findings are similar to the previous iteration of the Campbell focused deterrence systematic review. In the prior meta‐analysis, the nonequivalent quasi‐experimental designs had an effect size of 0.766 ( p  < .05), the matched quasi‐experimental designs had an effect size of 0.196 ( p  < .05) and, when research design type was included as a moderator, the overall effect size was 0.312 ( p  < .05). However, as noted earlier, the current review has a larger share of matched quasi‐experimental designs relative to nonequivalent quasi‐experimental designs. As such, the overall mean effect size estimated in the current meta‐analysis is smaller (0.383) as compared to the original review (0.604). For grey literature studies, Q  = 23.204, df  = 8, p  < .05. For journal article studies, Q  = 46.913, df  = 14, p  < .05. The between Q  = 10.079, df  = 1, p  < .05, suggesting that the publication type produced statistically significant differences in observed crime outcomes. The moderated overall effect size was 0.296 ( p  < .05). , p. 69), the trim‐and‐fill procedure is based on the notion that, in the absence of bias, a funnel plot of study effect sizes will be symmetric about the mean effect. If there are more small studies on one side than on the other side of the bottom of the funnel plot, there is concern that some studies may have been censored from the meta‐analysis. The trim‐and‐fill approach imputes the missing studies, adds them to the analysis, and then recomputes the mean effect size. The most notable limitation is that this approach assumes the observed asymmetry is a result of publication bias rather than of true differences in the results of the small studies compared with the larger ones. As discussed by Rothstein ( Cluster randomized experiments represent a variation of the classic randomized controlled trial design in which clusters (groups) of subjects, rather than individual subjects, are randomly allocated to treatment and control conditions. This design allows better control of treatment “contamination” across individual subjects. In the case of gang violence, this contamination is the stable unit treatment valuation assumption (SUTVA) problem generated by social connections among gangs. In a multisite cluster randomized trial, clusters of subjects are randomly allocated to treatment and control conditions in two or more sites. Randomly allocating distinct clusters of gangs connected by rivalries and alliances to treatment and control conditions limits the treatment contamination problem. Researchers in each participating city would need to identify gang conflict and alliance networks and apply social network analysis techniques to specify distinct socially connected cliques of gangs. Researchers would also need to track shootings by specific gangs during preintervention and postintervention time periods in participating cities.

Cite this