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Program Profile: Operation Ceasefire: Hollenbeck Initiative

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 04, 2011

Program Summary

A policing initiative that targeted specific dangerous gangs using aggressive enforcement to reduce gun violence. The program is rated Promising. In the five targeted police reporting districts, violent crime decreased by 37 percent during the six months after the intervention. This was a significant change in comparison to the other districts, where violent crime decreased by only 22 percent. The intervention also reduced gun and gang crime.

Program Description

Program Goals

The Hollenbeck Initiative was a replication of Boston, Mass. Operation Ceasefire of the 1990s, which used problem-oriented policing to reduce gun violence and youth gang activity. The program was successful in reducing youth gang-related homicides, and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) hoped to achieve similar results. The original goal of the program was to increase the cost of violent behavior to gang members by applying sanctions and increasing the benefits of nonviolent behavior by providing social services to offenders. However, the intended goal was not able to be achieved after a triggering event prompted a rapid implementation of the program. The goal then shifted to targeting the gangs responsible for the event.


Target Sites

The Hollenbeck area was chosen as the target site for the initiative because of its high rates of gang activity and violent crime; gangs were predominantly composed of Hispanic members. Hollenbeck is a 15-square-mile area east of downtown Los Angeles that contains the communities of El Sereno, Lincoln, and Boyle Heights. The community urged law enforcement officials to take immediate action after the violence reached a new level of urgency: in 2000, a 19-year-old gang member and a 10-year-old girl were killed in a gang-related double homicide in Boyle Heights. This event triggered swift implementation of the Operation Ceasefire program in Boyle Heights, located in the southern area of Hollenbeck.


Program Components

The Hollenbeck Initiative used collaboration among law enforcement agencies, community organizations, and institutions to design the Operation Ceasefire program. These partnerships provided information and support necessary to implement the program. Originally, these organizations planned on providing such services as tattoo removal, substance abuse treatment programs, and job training. However, in the wake of the Boyle Heights shooting, the plan was changed to better address the situation.


After the shooting in Boyle Heights, the LAPD quickly allocated additional resources to the known territories of both Cuatro Flats, the offending gang, and The Mob Crew (TMC), the victimized gang. The department increased patrols within the five reporting districts near the site of the homicides and in Cuatro Flats and TMC territory. The LAPD also deployed police officers from specialized units to the area, including Metro Unit and the SWAT team, the Operations Central Bureau (OCB) Special Enforcement Unit, and the OCB Traffic Bureau. Each weekend for the following 2 months, two officers on horseback patrolled the local parks and the adjacent public housing development within the targeted area. Officers also visited the residences of known Cuatro Flats gang members and enforced outstanding warrants or parole violations and seized illegal drugs and weapons. While making these arrests, officers made it clear that their actions were a direct result of the violence committed by members of the Cuatro Flats gang.


In addition to the immediate actions taken against members of the two gangs involved in the event, several other measures were used. Activity in health and welfare agencies and housing units in the territories of both gangs was scrutinized for suspicious activities. Rewards were offered to the public in exchange for information leading to arrests in the triggering event and other events involving these gangs.


Key Personnel

Los Angeles Police Department officers, special units in LAPD, collaboration of criminal justice agencies, and community partners including social service agencies.


Program Theory

It was found that the majority of homicides in Hollenbeck were a result of gang disputes relating to respect and territory wars, rather than drug disputes or other types of crime. Thus, an initiative was designed to specifically target problematic gang activity in the area. Gang activity is usually concentrated in small areas in cities with high levels of disorder, drug dealing, and violence. Since gangs are often spatially concentrated in their own areas, known as “turfs,” the intervention could theoretically be concentrated on these specific areas.


A theory of “collective accountability” was used to apprehend gang-affiliated offenders—that is, all gang members would be held accountable for the actions of any individual member. Police officers emphasized this message whenever an arrest of a gang member was made, to communicate a message of zero tolerance for gang activity and to deter future violence.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1

Violent Crime

Tita and colleagues (2003) found that during the six-month intervention period, violent crime decreased by about 28 percent in both Boyle Heights and in the remainder of the Hollenbeck area. There appears to have been no greater reduction of crime in Boyle Heights than in the remainder of Hollenbeck during the suppression period. Violent crime during the two months of the deterrence period decreased more rapidly in Boyle Heights than it did in the remainder of Hollenbeck.


In the five targeted police reporting districts, violent crime decreased by 37 percent during the six months after the intervention. This was a significant change in comparison to the rest of Boyle Heights, where violent crime decreased by only 22 percent. Violent crime dropped during both the deterrence stage and the suppression stage.


In the six months following the intervention, the number of violent crimes in the targeted Census block groups decreased 36 percent, while those in the matched Census block groups decreased only three percent. In the Census block groups overlapping the targeted reporting districts, violent crime decreased significantly compared with the matched blocks.


Gang Crime

In Boyle Heights, gang crime decreased at a statistically significant level compared with other regions of Hollenbeck during the suppression and deterrence periods of the intervention. However, effects were weaker in the deterrence period.


In the six months after the intervention, gang crimes in targeted reporting districts (RDs) decreased by 34 percent, and gang crimes in the remainder of Boyle Heights decreased by 52 percent. Although the rate of decrease for the entire six-month period was greater in the remainder of Boyle Heights than in the targeted RDs, statistical analysis showed that the decrease in gang crime during the four months of the suppression period in the targeted RDs was greater than the decrease in the remainder of Boyle Heights.


In the Census block groups, gang crime did not decrease significantly. The intervention does not appear to have had any significant effect on gang crime in the targeted Census block groups, compared with the matched block groups.


Gun Crime

In Boyle Heights, gun crime decreased significantly in the intervention period and continued to decrease in the deterrence period, compared with the remaining areas of Hollenbeck.


During the intervention, gun crime decreased by 33 percent in the five targeted police reporting districts and 32 percent in the remainder of Boyle Heights. However, these declines were not shown to be statistically significant.


The decrease in the targeted Census block groups area was 28 percent, greater than the 18 percent decline in the matched Census block groups. The effect was particularly strong during the suppression period but returned to pre-intervention levels during the deterrence period.

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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1

Tita and colleagues (2003) compared changes in crime rates for three periods across three comparison areas. The three periods were 1) the pre-intervention period, six months before the triggering event; 2) the suppression period, the four months during which all parts of the intervention were applied; and 3) the deterrence period, the two months during which only selected parts of the intervention (for example, heightened patrol of public housing units in the area and greater enforcement of probation and parole regulations) were applied. The three comparison areas were 1) Boyle Heights, in comparison with the remainder of the Hollenbeck area; 2) the five police reporting districts where the intervention was targeted, compared with the remainder of Boyle Heights; and 3) the Census block groups comprising the turf of the targeted gangs, compared with a group of Census block groups scattered throughout Hollenbeck, that most closely matched the characteristics of the targeted area. No rival programs were in place in the Hollenbeck area at the time of the program.


Violent crime consisted of homicides, attempted homicides, robberies, assaults, and kidnappings. Gang crime consisted of violent crime and terrorist threats, firearm discharge, vandalism, and graffiti committed by gang members. Gun crime consisted of violent or gang crimes that involved a firearm.


Data was obtained from two different LAPD files: one that included all violent crime incidents; and one that included violent crimes and other incidents in which the victim or offender was known to be a victim of a gang. Both files also contained detailed information on the weapon used in the crime, if applicable.

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Tita, George, K. Jack Riley, Greg Ridgeway, Clifford Grammich, Allan F. Abrahamse, and Peter W. Greenwood. 2003. “Reducing Gun Violence: Results From an Intervention in East Los Angeles.” Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corporation.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Focused Deterrence Strategies
Problem-oriented policing strategies that follow the core principles of deterrence theory. The practice is rated Promising. The evaluation found that focused deterrence strategies (also referred to as “pulling levers" policing) can reduce crime.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types

Problem-Oriented Policing
These analytic methods are used by police to develop crime prevention and reduction strategies. The practice is rated Promising and led to a significant decline in crime and disorder.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types

Reducing Gun Violence
Reducing gun violence is a persistent public policy concern for communities, policymakers and leaders. To reduce gun violence, several strategies have been deployed including public health approaches (e.g., training and safe gun storage); gun buy-back programs; gun laws; and law enforcement strategies. The practice is rated Promising for reducing violent gun offenses.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Hispanic

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting, High Crime Neighborhoods/Hot Spots

Program Type: Community and Problem Oriented Policing, Community Awareness/Mobilization, Crisis Intervention/Response, Gang Prevention/Intervention, Children Exposed to Violence, Community Crime Prevention , Violence Prevention, Specific deterrence

Targeted Population: Serious/Violent Offender, Children Exposed to Violence, Gang Members

Current Program Status: Not Active

Listed by Other Directories: Child Exposure to Violence Evidence Based Guide

Program Director:
Greg Ridgeway
Safety and Justice Program, ISE, RAND Corporation
1776 Main Street
Santa Monica CA 90407-2138
Phone: 310.393.0411 ext: 7734

George Tita
Associate Professor
Criminology, Law and Society Planning, Policy and Design University of California, Irvine
2307 Social Ecology II
Irvine CA 92697-7080
Phone: 949.824.4927