Promising - One study
In 1996, Dallas, Texas, had a reported 79 gangs, 6,145 documented gang members, and 1,332 gang-related incidents. In response to high numbers of gang crimes, the Dallas Police Department implemented the Anti-Gang Initiative that year. The goal of the initiative was to reduce gang-related crime through the use of specialized police strategies. Specifically, the program sought to reduce gang-related violence among juveniles in Dallas.
Five target areas were selected to receive the initiative, on the basis of high levels of gang-related crime. These areas were identified as home to the city’s seven most violent gangs.
To reduce gang-related violence, the program implemented three main suppression tactics:
Aggressive curfew enforcement. Juvenile curfew ordinances were strictly enforced, especially when suspected gang members were encountered. In Dallas, the law is that juveniles under 17 must be in their residence between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Aggressive truancy enforcement. The police department coordinated with schools to ensure that students did not miss classes and patrolled for students not at school during school hours. Texas law stated that juveniles between 6 and 17 had to be in enrolled in school and in attendance from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Officers patrolled areas during these times to make sure students were not skipping school.
Simple saturation patrol. Officers conducted high-visibility patrols in identified target areas. During these patrols, they conducted surveillance, stopped and frisked suspicious persons, and investigated suspicious activity. To provide a deterrent effect, their presence was made highly visible.
Teams of six to eight officers were assembled to implement the strategy. Officers were freed from responding to calls for service so they could concentrate on assigned duties.
The Dallas Anti-Gang Initiative was based on the idea of suppression of gang activity through law enforcement tactics. This is the deterrence theory—that increasing police patrol and making their presence highly visible provides a general deterrent effect. This theory was specifically tailored to the gang problem in Dallas and was implemented in the form of a crackdown on gang activity. Further, truancy and curfew violations have been linked with high levels of juvenile delinquency. This follows from the theory that juveniles get into more trouble when left unsupervised and when not in school. Thus, this program sought to reduce gang-related juvenile delinquency by cracking down on truancy and curfew violations.
Violent Gang-Related Offenses
Fritsch and colleagues (1999) found that the preintervention monthly mean of violent gang-related offenses was 20.9 for all target areas combined, and dropped to 8.9 postintervention. This was a statistically significant decrease of 57 percent.
The preintervention monthly mean was 22.6 for all control areas combined, and dropped to 14.3 postintervention. This was a statistically significant decrease of 37 percent.
After examining strategies used in target areas, it was found that aggressive curfew and truancy enforcement were effective in reducing gang-related violence, while saturated patrol alone was not. In addition, after an analysis of crime in targeted areas, the study found minimal evidence of displacement of crime to other areas.
Gang-Related Offenses Reported to Police
There were no statistically significant reductions in gang-related offenses reported to police. However, there were statistically significant increases in target areas in reported robberies (23.8 percent increase) and auto thefts (15.4 percent increase). There were also statistically significant decreases in target areas in reports of criminal mischief (15 percent decrease) and weapons violations (30 percent decrease). The 30 percent statistically significant decrease in criminal mischief was also seen in control areas.
Fritsch and colleagues (1999) used a quasi-experimental design to test the impact that the Dallas Anti-Gang Initiative made on gang-related activity in Dallas, Texas.
Five target areas were selected from patrol beats, based on two criteria. First, the area had to have high amounts of gang violence in the year before the study. In addition, the area had to overlap so-called enterprise zones (areas designated to encourage economic development) and renaissance areas (where neighborhood organizations use federal funds to design and implement programs to reduce crime and disorder).
Four control areas were selected as comparison groups, using a two-stage process. First, from June 1, 1995, through May 31, 1996, the number of gang-related offenses for each patrol beat, in the same patrol division as the corresponding target area, was determined from data provided by the Dallas Police Department Gang Unit. Second, beats with the largest numbers of violent gang-related offenses during the time period were matched with corresponding target areas and served as control areas. The target and control areas were sufficiently similar to allow for an accurate comparison between the groups.
For measures of effectiveness of the Anti-Gang Initiative, the study examined two evaluation outcomes:
Violent gang-related offenses. Data on gang-related offenses was obtained from the Gang Unit of the Dallas Police Department, and several offenses were aggregated into violent gang-related crime. Data on property gang-related crime was not included because of a small sample size. The mean number of gang-related offenses was examined for treatment and control areas in the preintervention period (June 1995 through May 1996) and compared with the postintervention period (June 1996 through May 1997). Further, the specific strategies used were examined to determine which were most effective in reducing gang-related violence (truancy enforcement, curfew enforcement, or saturation patrol).
Gang-related offenses reported to police. Offenses reported to police June 1, 1995, through May 31, 1997, from the Crime Analysis Unit of the police department were examined. These index and property crimes included murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, auto theft, theft, arson, other assault, criminal mischief, drug offenses, and weapon offenses. Drug offenses and weapon offenses were measured by number of arrests rather than by reported offenses.
Officers received overtime pay for the saturated patrol, which was provided as part of the evaluation grant from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:Study 1
Fritsch, Eric, Tory J. Caeti, and Robert W. Taylor. 1999. “Gang Suppression Through Saturation Patrol, Aggressive Curfew, and Truancy Enforcement: A Quasi-Experimental Test of the Dallas Anti-Gang Initiative.” Crime & Delinquency 45(1):122–39.