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Assessing the gang level and community level effects of the Philadelphia Focused Deterrence strategy

NCJ Number
Journal of Experimental Criminology Volume: 15 Issue: 4 Dated: 2019 Pages: 499-527
Date Published
29 pages

This study evaluated both the community- and gang-level impacts of the Philadelphia Focused Deterrence strategy.


Violence reduction initiatives based on focused deterrence strategies have gained attention in recent years due to their empirical support. The evaluations have generally assessed the impact of this intervention on trends in gun violence at the aggregate level, but not at the gang level. In the current evaluation, the intervention was assessed using a quasi-experimental design that measured trends in shootings over a 12-year period, including 2 years after the implementation of the initiative. Propensity scoring and matching techniques were used to match neighborhoods and gangs, and a number of regression models were run to assess impact. Although a statistically significant reduction in total shootings across the treated neighborhoods was observed when compared to matched neighborhoods, the findings at the gang level were mixed. Models comparing shootings around gang territories showed significant reductions when compared to shootings around the territories of matched gangs, but pre-post-only models of treated gangs using the more rigorous measure of gang-involved shootings did not show evidence of impact.  The study concluded that the findings suggest focused deterrence may provide a mechanism for general deterrence among a broad pool of potential offenders. Specifically, violent gangs, even when targeted, may not be affected similarly for a variety of reasons. To better understand who is receiving the deterrence message and responding to it, future evaluations of focused deterrence strategies, when assessing impact, should include measures of the dosage of the message and other components relative to individuals and their groups. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2019