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Youth Violence in Boston: Gun Markets, Serious Youth Offenders, and a Use-Reduction Strategy

NCJ Number
Law and Contemporary Problems Volume: 59 Issue: 1 Dated: (Winter 1996) Pages: 147-196
Date Published
50 pages

The Boston Gun Project is an attempt to bring a problem-solving strategy to bear on youth violence in a particular city.


The project's aim has been to learn more about youth violence, youth gun violence, and gun trafficking; to craft interventions based on that knowledge; to implement the interventions; and to evaluate their impact. Gun Project participants have made important discoveries about the nature of youth violence in Boston; namely, the centrality of gangs and gang conflict; the criminality of both victims and offenders; and the "knownness" of high-risk individuals and groups to front-line police, probation, and gang mediation workers. They have made significant discoveries about the illicit gun market, including the importance of intrastate trafficking: disproportionate youth preference, relative to other criminal consumers, for new semiautomatic pistols, and their apparent preference for particular brands of those pistols. They have also made discoveries about youth disproportionate reliance on the flow of guns from southern States, and especially the significance of a large and highly investigatable flow of "fast" time-to-crime weapons. The gun Project working group has crafted innovative use-reduction and gun-market disruption schemes, and these schemes have received the operational support of participating agencies. If successful, the use-reduction strategy will help control the most dangerous and frequent of Boston's youthful violent offenders, reduce the fear felt by other youth who acquire guns for self- protection, and reduce the demand for guns. A communications campaign will enhance the effectiveness of all parts of the strategy. It remains to be seen whether the strategies can be implemented as designed and whether they will have the desired impact. 10 figures, 10 tables, and 106 footnotes

Date Published: January 1, 1996