Impact of Focused Deterrence on Lived Experiences With Gangs and Gun Violence: Extending Effects Beyond Officially Recorded Crime

Date01 June 2022
Published date01 June 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2022, Vol. 33(5) 507 –535
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/08874034211063812
Impact of Focused Deterrence
on Lived Experiences With
Gangs and Gun Violence:
Extending Effects Beyond
Officially Recorded Crime
T. R Kochel1, Seyvan Nouri1,
and S. Yaser Samadi1
The study evaluates a geographically based focused deterrence (FD) intervention,
extending knowledge about FD impact beyond crime data to also examine residents’
lived experiences with gangs and gun violence via a two-wave household survey.
We employ a quasi-experimental design and utilize time-series analyses, coefficient
difference tests, and mixed-effects ordinal logistic regression. The results show a
significant reduction in shots fired incidents in the target area relative to comparison
areas. Shots fired calls for service trended downward citywide, but the magnitude
was doubled in the target area. Survey data showed substantive declines in the
target area on all six gang and gun violence outcomes, significantly exceeding changes
experienced in comparison areas. We conclude that focusing geographically as
well as on repeat offenders is an effective FD approach, and evaluating community
surveys provides an improved understanding of the community impact.
focused deterrence, gun violence, gangs, community impact, quasi-experiment
1Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, USA
Corresponding Author:
T. R Kochel, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Southern Illinois University, MC 4504, 1000 Faner Dr.,
Carbondale, IL 62901, USA.
1063812CJPXXX10.1177/08874034211063812Criminal Justice Policy ReviewKochel et al.
508 Criminal Justice Policy Review 33(5)
Gangs and gun violence frequently coexist in communities. From 2007 to 2011, 13% of
homicides in U.S. cities with more than 100,000 population were gang-related, and the
5-year average increased by 35% in 2012 (National Gang Center, 2014). Among larger
cities, 20% of homicides are gang-related (Pyrooz, 2012). Gang membership, even
when concentrated in a small area, has a significant influence on gun assaults in that
community and in communities nearby (Huebner et al., 2020). Scholars have linked
gang membership with a propensity to commit crime (Gordon et al., 2004; Melde &
Esbensen, 2013; Pyrooz et al., 2016; Taylor et al., 2007), especially in high-crime and
socially disadvantaged areas (Bursik, 2002; Coughlin & Venkatesh, 2003; Tita &
Ridgeway, 2007). Gang presence facilitates greater shots fired activity in a neighbor-
hood (Tita & Ridgeway, 2007).
Guns are integral to gangs, used for protection against victimization, to commit
crime, and as symbols of masculinity (Decker & Van Winkle, 1996; Sheley & Wright,
1998; Stretesky & Pogrebin, 2007; Wright & Rossi, 1986). Gang members are as much
as 8 times more likely to carry guns (Lizotte et al., 2000), and gang membership was the
strongest predictor of gun possession and a significant positive predictor of gun use
among juveniles, in a study by Watkins et al. (2008). Youth who have a friend or rela-
tive in a gang are more likely to carry a gun (Luster & Oh, 2001).
Focused deterrence (FD) is an evidence-based approach to reducing gun homicides,
especially gang-related gun homicides. Crime-control benefits often diffuse to nearby
geographic areas and untreated offenders (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering,
and Medicine, 2018). FD, also called pulling levers, is a two-pronged crime prevention
strategy that capitalizes on the group-based nature of gang-related gun violence. FD
increases penalties for repeat gun offenders and their associates who refuse to stop
shooting and provides social services to help offenders leave gangs, stop committing
crime, and become productive members of their community. A meta-analysis of 24
experimental and quasi-experimental FD studies found a significant small to medium
effect of FD on crime (Braga et al., 2018). On the basis of this rigorous research, police
and communities can be confident in the impact of FD on official counts of gun homi-
cides, gun assaults, gunshot wound incidents, gang-homicides, violent crime, and so on
(e.g., Boyle et al., 2010; Braga, 2008; Roman et al., 2019). And, because violent crimes
that involve firearms are more often reported to police than property and disorder
offenses (Hart & Rennison, 2003; Tarling & Morris, 2010), official crime data are con-
sidered a reasonable estimate of the prevalence of gun violence. Absent expensive gun-
fire detection technology, calls for police service and incident data are often the only
available estimates of gun violence.
However, gunfire incidents are underreported, especially in high gun crime neigh-
borhoods (Huebner et al., 2020). In their study comparing reported gunfire incidents to
ShotSpotter data in two large cities, Carr and Doleac (2016) found that only 12% of
gunfire incidents are reported to police. ShotSpotter advertises on their website that
“80% of gunshot incidents are never reported to 911” ( In high-
crime areas, residents’ lack of trust in police contributes to underreporting (Kruger
et al., 2016). Thus, in addition to examining the impact of FD on reported gun crime,
there is utility in examining the impact with alternative data sources.

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