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.