Baltimore’s ‘Focused Deterrence’ Recycled a Third Time in Bid to Curb Gun Violence

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Baltimore skyline by Brandon Morse via Flickr

A twice-tried Baltimore “focused deterrence” strategy has received a new infusion of funds after officials said it could reduce the city’s gun violence by the end of 2021, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The Group Violence Reduction Strategy will create “a network of street-level intelligence” to intervene in conflicts that are likely to turn into armed violence.

The strategy received $600,000 in grant money from an unspecified source last week. A city spokesman said officials already have raised more than $1 million through nonprofits such as The Abell Foundation, Baltimore Community Foundation and Johns Hopkins University.

Officials said the plan could save an estimated 800 Baltimore lives over eight years.

According to the National Institute of Justice, focused deterrence is a method of policing that targets “specific criminal behavior committed by a small number of chronic offenders who are vulnerable to sanctions and punishment,” like youth offenders and gang members.

Under the strategy, law enforcement confronts the offender and offers “help” like safe housing, addiction treatment, counseling and other services in an effort to deter them from continuing to commit crime.

Law enforcement, prosecutors and social workers would have places to gather called “intelligence hubs,” where they would work to connect possible individuals at risk of committing crimes or neighborhoods at high risk of crime.

According to the Baltimore Sun, intelligence hubs are already situated throughout the city.

The plan has three initiatives: offering necessary support services to those who are vulnerable to committing crimes, revamping the intelligence hubs so that law enforcement can accurately and better gather information about individuals and hiring a team of directors and coordinators to see the program succeed.

Anthony Braga, a nationally known expert on gun issues from Northeastern University has been nominated to oversee the program.

The plan is expected to cost an estimated $1.8 million dollars over the span of three years, which the department has already received most of through grants and donations. The grant money will go towards hiring social workers that are skilled in working with these people.

In order for the plan to work, the city needs to devote time and resources to see it through to fruition. City officials know this to be true as it’s not the first time they’ve tried to implement it.

The city attempted focused deterrence measures twice in the past, once in the late 1990s and again in 2014.

According to the Baltimore Sun, neither saw much success.

This was attributed to the lack of funds and overall commitment to the work needed for the plan to see real progress. Baltimore Police Chief Michael Harrison, who was sworn in March 2019, saw the benefits of a committed focused deterrence program in New Orleans, where he was police chief before coming to Baltimore.

A similar Group Violence Reduction Strategy in New Orleans produced a “statistically significant and sustained association with reduced firearms violence within the city,” according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

In order to fully build a street-level intelligence network, where citizens trust that law enforcement has their best interest at heart, it will take time and dedication to the overall goal. This is especially significant after a summer of protests against police brutality and problems within the criminal justice system.

“Why we failed before is about not getting down and working with the people on the ground,” said Mayor-elect Brandon Scott in the Baltimore Sun article. “We never fully implemented it.”

Despite the program’s past failures, officials are hoping that they now have “the will and experience to bring peace.”

This is important for the city, which is once again nearing 300 homicides in one year, even during a global pandemic.

Emily Riley is a TCR justice reporting intern.

One thought on “Baltimore’s ‘Focused Deterrence’ Recycled a Third Time in Bid to Curb Gun Violence

  1. It would be interesting to see why a 3rd generation of focused deterrence is necessary. The original “Pulling Levers” was very successful. What has changed that “Pulling Levers” couldn’t be used in it’s original form or at least the 2nd generation would work now?

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