Boston Gun Project
Gun Project was a problem-oriented policing initiative expressly aimed
at taking on a serious, large-scale crime problem -- homicide victimization
among young people in Boston. Like many large cities in the United States,
Boston experienced an epidemic of youth homicide between the late 1980s
and early 1990s. Boston youth homicide (ages 24 and under) increased 230
% -- from 22 victims in 1987 to 73 victims in 1990. Youth homicide remained
high well after the peak of the epidemic. Boston averaged about 44 youth
homicides per year between 1991 and 1995.
by the National Institute of Justice and directed by David M. Kennedy,
Anthony A. Braga, and Anne M. Piehl of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy
School of Government, the Project included: 1) assembling an interagency
working group of largely line-level criminal justice and other practitioners;
2) applying quantitative and qualitative research techniques to create
an assessment of the nature of, and dynamics driving, youth violence in
Boston; 3) developing an intervention designed to have a substantial,
near-term impact on youth homicide: 4) implementing and adapting the intervention;
and 5) evaluating the intervention's impact.
agencies, as defined by regular participation in the Boston Gun Project
Working Group over the duration of the project, included the Boston Police
Department; the Massachusetts departments of probation and parole; the
office of the Suffolk County District Attorney; the office of the United
States Attorney; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; the Massachusetts
Department of Youth Services (juvenile corrections); Boston School Police;
and gang outreach and prevention "streetworkers" attached to
the Boston Community Centers program. Other important participants, either
as regular partners later in the process or episodically, have included
the Ten Point Coalition of activist black clergy, the Drug Enforcement
Administration, the Massachusetts State Police, and the office of the
Massachusetts Attorney General.
began in early 1995 and implemented what is now known as the "Operation
Ceasefire" intervention, which began in the late spring of 1996.
Operation Ceasefire was an innovative partnership between researchers
and practitioners brought together to assess the city's youth homicide
problem and implement an intervention designed to have a substantial near-term
impact on the problem. Operation Ceasefire was based on the "pulling
levers" deterrence strategy which focused criminal justice attention
on a small number of chronically offending gang-involved youth responsible
for much of Boston's youth homicide problem. The Program in Criminal Justice
performed a rigorous evaluation of the project. Our impact evaluation
suggests that the Ceasefire intervention was associated with significant
reductions in youth homicide victimization, shots fired calls for service,
and gun assault incidents in Boston. A comparative analysis of youth homicide
trends in Boston relative to youth homicide trends in other major U.S.
and New England cities also supports a unique program effect associated
with the Ceasefire intervention.
Findings by the Program in Criminal Justice:
A., and David M. Kennedy. "Reducing Gang Violence in Boston."
to Gangs: Evaluation and Research, eds. Winifred L. Reed and Scott
H. Decker. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice (July 2002).
A., David M. Kennedy, Anne M. Piehl, and Elin J. Waring. Reducing
Gun Violence: The Boston Gun Project's Operation Ceasefire.
National Institute of Justice Research Report (September 2001).
A., David M. Kennedy, Elin J. Waring, and Anne M. Piehl. "Problem-Oriented
Policing, Deterrence, and Youth Violence: An Evaluation of Boston's Operation
Ceasefire." Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 38,
no. 3 (August 2001). (see a draft
of the paper)
A., Anne M. Piehl, and David M. Kennedy. "Youth Homicide in Boston: An
Assessment of Supplementary Homicide Report Data," Homicide Studies
3, no. 4 (November 1999).
A. and Glenn L. Pierce. "Disrupting Illegal Firearms Markets in Boston:
The Effects of Operation Ceasefire on the Supply of New Handguns to Criminals."
Criminology & Public Policy 4, no. 4 (November 2005).
A. and Christopher Winship. "Creating
an Effective Foundation to Prevent Youth Violence: Lessons Learned from
Boston in the 1990s." Rappaport Institute Policy Brief PB-2005-5
(September 26, 2005).
David M. "Pulling Levers:
Chronic Offenders, High-Crime Settings, and a Theory of Prevention."
Valparaiso University Law Review 31, no. 2 (Spring 1997).
Levers: Getting Deterrence Right." National Institute of Justice
Journal (July 1998).
David M. "A Tale of One City: Reflections on the Boston Gun Project."
In Securing Our Children's Future: New Approaches to Juvenile Justice
and Youth Violence, ed. Gary S. Katzmann. Washington, DC: Brookings
Institution Press, 2002.
David M., and Anthony A. Braga. "Homicide in Minneapolis: Research
for Problem Solving," Homicide Studies 2, no. 3 (August 1998).
David M., Anthony A. Braga, and Anne M. Piehl. "The (Un)Known Universe:
Mapping Gangs and Gang Violence in Boston." In Crime Mapping and
Crime Prevention, ed. David L. Weisburd and J. Thomas McEwen. New
York: Criminal Justice Press, 1997.
David M., Anne M. Piehl, and Anthony A. Braga. "Youth
Violence in Boston: Gun Markets, Serious Youth Offenders, and a Use-Reduction
Strategy." Law and Contemporary Problems 59, no. 1 (Winter
M., Suzanne J. Cooper, Anthony A. Braga, and David M. Kennedy. "Testing
for Structural Breaks in the Evaluation of Programs." The Review
of Economics and Statistics 85, no. 3 (August 2003).
M., David M. Kennedy, and Anthony A. Braga. "Problem Solving and
Youth Violence: An Evaluation of the Boston Gun Project." American
Law and Economics Review 2, no. 1 (Spring 2000).
Winship, Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology and Director of Graduate
Studies at Harvard's Department of Sociology, has related resources on