‘Focused deterrence’ policing an alternative to gun-grabbing: Does it work?

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

We are rightfully alarmed when we read about the violence in Mexico with the Mormon family shooting, the riots in Hong Kong, and bouts of frequent mass shootings in the United States.

It’s natural to wonder, will this trend continue?

Here’s a reminder of what transpired this past year in a timeline from L.A.Times:

  • August 31 at a movie theatre in Odessa, TX — 7 dead

  • August 4 in the historic district of Oregon in Dayton, OH — 9 dead and 27 injured

  • August 3 at a Walmart in El Paso, TX — 22 dead and 26 wounded

  • May 31 at Public Utilities Dept in Virginia Beach, VA — 12 dead and 6 wounded, municipal employees

  • February 15 at a manufacturing plant in Aurora, IL — 5 co-workers dead

  • Nov 7 at a bar in Thousand Oaks, CA — 12 dead and 18 injured

  • October 27 at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA — 11 dead and 6 wounded

To further inflame the masses, ABC reports there have been many more; 21 deadly mass shootings in the U.S. so far in 2019. In addition to the 21 mass shootings, the network reports there were 14 more that the FBI doesn’t define as “mass shootings.” The FBI defines a mass shooting as three or four more deaths, not including the suspect, that take place within one day.

If correct, the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) reports that approximately 1.6 million people lose their lives every year to violence. Granted, that’s a small percentage compared to the 60 million lives (lowest estimate) lost during WWII, but still significant. I repeat, if accurate.

According to WHO’s report, males 15-44 years old are those who commit homicide, and it’s the third leading cause of death for males in this age group.

I’m going to take a leap, so please follow me here: I don’t agree with much “Spartacus” Cory Booker has to say but, unlike the rest of the Democrat candidates and their gun control craze, he has advocated a “Break the Cycle of Violence Act” which, if properly implemented, should certainly not cost the $90M a year over 10 years to tackle that he’s claiming. But, if executed and managed effectively and efficiently, it could be a workable model for law enforcement everywhere. It’s based on a 2017 Oakland model and could mitigate the 14,000 gun homicides that Booker claims come from smaller-scale, everyday urban gun violence in the U.S. It could also, perhaps, create an early prevention model for those who are most at risk to commit gun violence.

This is how it could break the cycle of violence: Crime trends were first analyzed to see who was most at risk to commit gun violence. At that time in 2017, they found 400 people — 0.1 percent of the city’s population were at the highest risk at any given time and responsible for the majority of the city’s homicides.

Coordinated interventions were arranged. Call-in meetings for those at the highest risk for gun violence spoke directly with police, social services, faith leaders, and other interested community activists. After the call-in, local officials followed up with individual interventions as needed.

The result: While homicides increased overall in Baltimore, Chicago, St. Louis, and other major cities that year, Oakland’s homicide rate plummeted by almost 50 percent from 2012 to 2017. The homicide-solve-rate went from 29 percent in 2011 to more than 70 percent in 2017. According to Vox’s German Lopez, the reduced percentage was due to increased trust. According to those of us with commonsense, it was probably due to police knowing who the perps were ahead of time. So the study, the analysis, was very helpful. And there could have been some new trust created between law enforcement and those who truly wanted to be helped. Hopefully.

According to Wikipedia, this crime strategy, known as “focused deterrence” simultaneously shows there’s a way out of the cycle of violence but, if people don’t get out, there will be serious legal consequences. “It is also known as “pulling-levers” policing which increases the swiftness, severity, and certainty of punishment for crimes by implementing a mix of law enforcement, social services, and community mobilization.”

The strategy has also been credited with Boston’s 79 percent drop in violent crime in the city in the 1990s. Which begs the question: Why were these tertiary lines of defense and effective crime deterrents ever dropped?


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Tanya Hazelton


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