The Rockford (Ill.) Pulling Levers Drug Market Intervention is a problem-oriented policing strategy used by the Rockford Police Department (RPD) to combat open-air drug markets and related offending in Delancey Heights, a high-crime neighborhood. The ultimate goal of the intervention is to reduce criminal offending, interrupt open-air drug markets, and make the high-crime community more inhabitable. The RPD uses a focused-deterrence strategy, sometimes referred to as a “pulling levers” approach.
Pulling levers consists of several steps, including diagnosing a specific crime problem, organizing an interagency working group of criminal justice personnel, conducting research to identify the crime patterns of chronic offenders and their criminal networks, responding to law violators with a variety of sanctions as a coercive approach to stop their illegal behavior, providing targeted offenders with social services and community resources, and directly and continuously communicating with offenders so that they understand they are receiving special attention.
The deterrence theory serves as the foundation for the Rockford Pulling Levers Drug Market Intervention. Deterrence theory holds that humans are rational beings who consider the consequences of their actions and are deterred from engaging in continual patterns of offending as a result of the certainty, severity, and celerity of punishment. In pulling levers initiatives, police officers target high-risk offenders, using specific sanctions as leverage to obtain compliance and reduce the risk of future offending. It is believed that these deterrence-based policing approaches, coupled with proactive policing, have the potential to reduce violence and other disruptive behaviors in an urban environment (Corsaro, Hunt, Hipple, and McGarrell 2012).
The Rockford Pulling Levers Drug Market Intervention included three stages: identification, notification, and resource delivery. The identification stage was a data-driven analysis used by the RPD to determine the appropriate neighborhood and individuals to target. The notification stage consisted of a targeted investigation that lasted several months, which resulted in the arrest and prosecution of chronic, violent offenders in the target neighborhood. Suspected offenders were also identified during the targeted investigation and were invited to a “call-in” meeting along with their families, key criminal- justice personnel, and community members. During this meeting, community members spoke of the harm caused by drug dealing, and offenders were informed that their actions would no longer be tolerated.
Finally, the resource delivery stage included support mechanisms for the offender and community improvements for the Delancey Heights neighborhood. During this stage, an offender-needs assessment was conducted by social support services, which was followed by a more detailed assessment in subsequent weeks. All offenders were provided positive support mechanisms that were specific to their situations. Furthermore, in an effort to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood, RPD and housing inspectors seized houses where drug dealing was known to occur. Those who did not participate in the drug dealing were moved to new homes. Additionally, to indicate a change in the neighborhood, routine patrols were conducted by the RPD, streets were cleaned by a street sweeper, and citations were given for lawn, trash, and poor fencing violators. Overall, community source officers and community leaders worked together to ensure everyone was informed of community issues (Corsaro, Brunson, and McGarrell 2009).