The Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS) is a focused deterrence intervention that was implemented in New Orleans, Louisiana, with the goal of addressing persistent, citywide patterns of violence. Operating through interagency partnerships, the GVRS uses a data-driven approach to identify key offenders who are responsible for a disproportionate share of serious violence in New Orleans. The focused deterrence strategy, which is based on the Boston CeaseFire model, is designed to use problem analyses to identify high-risk groups and gangs, to advise gang members and other group-involved violent offenders (during call-in notification sessions) that they will be subjected to intensified enforcement and prosecution if they continue engaging in violence, and to provide the targeted individuals with access to social services.
GVRS targets members of gangs and criminally active groups who are identified through multi-agency partnerships. Those identified become the targets of a three-pronged approach: law enforcement, threat of enhanced prosecution, and access to social services.
The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) conducts separate “offender notification sessions” with the targeted gang members. During the sessions, the groups and gang members are notified about heightened sanctions that their groups will receive for any future involvement in violence; they are then asked to pass along this information to other group members. The individuals are specifically warned that their entire group will be under immediate, enhanced law-enforcement scrutiny for subsequent murders or shootings committed by anyone associated with their gangs. To demonstrate the seriousness of the message, the NOPD provides the groups with examples of previous gangs that were arrested and faced severe federal- and state-prison terms. During these notification sessions, information about social service provisions is also provided.
In addition to these sessions, a small number of individuals receive a “custom notification session”; that is, they are visited by a member of the NOPD who delivers a personalized antiviolence message.
At the beginning of the project, a working group consisting of NOPD officers; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) special agents; researchers from the University of Cincinnati’s Institute of Crime Science; and members of the Cincinnati Police Department collaborated to conduct homicide-incident reviews and gang audits to ascertain potential violent groups. The working group organized information about violent street gangs into “actionable intelligence” that was categorized according to individual gang members, geography, social networks, and participation in violence. From this list, the working group identified potential street gangs from six districts in the NOPD. This list was also continuously updated by the NOPD officials who were most acquainted with the criminal groups and gangs in the area. Other key personnel included social service and community partners, who attended the notification sessions and encouraged attendees to sign up for services. General partners included the Institute of Crime Science at the University of Cincinnati and the National Network for Safe Communities.
GVRS is a focused deterrence strategy, also called the “pulling levers” violence-reduction strategy, which was developed in Boston, Massachusetts, in the 1990s as Operation Ceasefire (Braga et al. 2001). Deterrence theory argues that crime can be prevented when potential offenders perceive the risk of apprehension and the seriousness and swiftness of sanctions to be greater than any benefits that will accrue from committing a crime. Focused deterrence theory operates by delivering a message about the high risk of swift apprehension and punishment to the chronic, serious, violent offenders who are involved in most of the city’s violent crime. Focused deterrence theory is rooted in problem-oriented policing, a highly focused law-enforcement approach that aims to assess, identify, and disrupt the underlying causes of chronic crime problems, by using methods beyond traditional police practice (Corsaro and Engel 2015).
Homicide Rate Change in New Orleans
Results of the analysis conducted by Corsaro and Engel (2015) showed that after implementation of the Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS), the decline in homicide rates in New Orleans was 17.3 percent lower than the homicide rate change in the 14 comparison sites – a statistically significant difference.
The interrupted time series analysis found that overall homicides declined in New Orleans from a pretest mean of 15.2 per month to 12.4 per month at posttest, which is an 18.6 percent reduction. Multivariate analyses (that controlled for other important factors such as seasonality) also showed that the GVRS was associated with a significant decline in the mean monthly number of homicides.
The interrupted time series analysis found that firearm-related homicides experienced a significant decline of 17.4 percent (pretest mean of 13.8 to 11.4 at posttest) in New Orleans. Multivariate analyses also showed that the GVRS was associated with a significant decline in the mean number of monthly firearm-related homicides.
The analysis found that firearm assaults in the city experienced a significant decline of 16.2 percent (pretest mean of 33.4 to 28.0 at posttest). Multivariate analyses also showed that the GVRS was associated with a significant decline in the mean number of monthly, non-lethal firearm-related assaults.
Gang Member-Involved (GMI) Homicides
The analysis found that GMI homicides experienced a significant decline of 30.1 percent, reflecting a change from a pretest mean of 8.8 per month to 6.2 at posttest. Multivariate analyses also showed that the GVRS was associated with a significant decline in the mean number of GMI homicides.
The evaluation of the Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS) by Corsaro and Engel (2015) consisted of a two-phase, quasi-experimental design with multiple comparisons. The primary comparisons were between New Orleans and other urban cities in the United States with similarly high rates of homicide— both historically and in the more immediate study period (2008–2013). The authors also evaluated trends within the city for the types of offenses most likely to be affected by GVRS and as compared with other crime types.
The comparison cities were selected as a result of prior research that identified 15 cities (including New Orleans) with similarly high-trajectory patterns of homicide rates over a 30-year period (1976 to 2005). The 14 comparison communities operated under business-as-usual; they were not directly involved in the GVRS study but their Uniform Crime Report (UCR) crime data were compared with data from the City of New Orleans. The 14 comparison cities were Atlanta, Ga.; Baltimore, Md.; Birmingham, Ala.; Cleveland, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; Detroit, Mich.; Flint, Mich.; Gary, Ind.; Miami, Fla.; New Orleans, La.; Newark, N.J.; Oakland, Calif.; Richmond, Va.; St. Louis, Mo.; and Washington, D.C.
The first main analysis examined annual homicide rates in New Orleans and the comparison cities for 2008–2013. In the first set of analyses, the relative homicide rate change in New Orleans was compared with changes in homicide among the comparison cities. Several difference-in-difference Poisson regression models were estimated using data for each city during the study period.
The second set of analyses used monthly data on overall homicides, firearm-related homicides, firearm assaults, and gang member-involved (GMI) homicides in New Orleans from January 2010 through January 2014. To assess the impact of the program within New Orleans, interrupted time-series analyses were conducted. Four citywide, monthly outcome variables were assessed: overall homicides, firearm-related homicides, firearm assaults, and gang member-involved (GMI) homicides.
Finally, the researchers controlled for the potential influence of simultaneously administered strategies (i.e., CURE Violence) within New Orleans to rule out potential confounding effects on the outcomes.
There is no cost information available for this program.
The Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS) is an implementation of the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) strategy, under the National Network for Safe Communities, which is a project of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. GVI programs are known by different names in different cities, where they are tailored to local conditions while preserving GVI’s core principles.
The Web site for the National Network for Safe Communities (https://nnscommunities.org/impact/cities
) lists over 80 network member cities and indicates the National Network’s strategies that have been deployed in more than 60 cities. An implementation guide is available on the website.
The Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS) was implemented simultaneously with the CURE Violence model (formerly Chicago CeaseFire), as part of a larger NOLA for Life murder-reduction strategy (Skogan et al. 2009). According to the National Network for Safe Communities, the GVI model (e.g., Operation Ceasefire) and CeaseFire – Chicago (also known as CURE Violence) are similar in that both strategies employ street workers to prevent retaliatory violence and provide access to services, but they also have important differences. For example, in New Orleans, CURE Violence relied on violence interrupters and outreach workers to mediate conflicts between conflicting organizations in the Central City area, while GVRS took a focused deterrence approach. Also, the Cure Violence model engages with law enforcement less directly, whereas the GVI model incorporates as central the law enforcement–community partnership. For more information, see the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College Web site: https://nnscommunities.org/
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
Braga, Anthony A., David M. Kennedy, Elin J. Waring, and Anne Morrison Piehl. 2001. “Problem-Oriented Policing, Deterrence, and Youth Violence: An Evaluation of Boston’s Operation Ceasefire.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
McCall, Patricia L., Kenneth C. Land, and Karen F. Parker. 2011. “Heterogeneity in the Rise and Decline of City-Level Homicide Rates, 1976–2005: A Latent Trajectory Analysis.” Social Science Research
Skogan, Wesley G., Susan M. Hartnett, Natalie Bump, and Jill Dubois. 2009. Evaluation of CeaseFire-Chicago
. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Of?ce of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice.
Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated 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:
| ||Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types|
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:
| ||Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types|