OPERATION NIGHT LIGHT AND THE BOSTON STRATEGY TO REDUCE JUVENILE FIREARM VIOLENCE
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The Boston Strategy to Prevent Youth Violence emerged through the work of an interagency group formed to address the youth firearm violence problem. By focusing on a group of known offenders, Cease-Fire developed an appropriate response to curtail illicit activity through specific tactics implemented by the interagency group. Cease-Fire is broadly characterized by elements uncommon in law enforcement strategies -- It is based on a conviction that some youth want to stop the cycle of retaliatory violence and will change the dynamic of gang violence when confronted with clear, credible information regarding prosecutorial consequences of continued violence and, it expands the roles of all partners beyond traditional functional boundaries; allowing police to become community corrections officers, probation officers to prevent crime, and prosecutors to effectively play a role in preventing violence.
These beliefs are reflected in three structural foundations for the program:
Systematic information sharing and cross-functional approaches among courts, probation and police, including police/probation officers riding together on patrol/probation checks,
Community meetings aimed at the offender population, at which youth are offered both the "carrot" (jobs, alternative education) and the "stick" – they choose. Swift response when violence does occur, by all agency partners in coordination
2. When was the program created and why?
Juvenile firearm homicides are down 71% from the time before the intervention began. Other indicators of success are an increased rate of compliance with the terms of probation among youth probationers, and a substantial increase in the community’s reporting of their level of fear.
3. How is the program financed?
The project has had funding from a wide array of grant and operating budget sources, including a major grant ($750,000) from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the Department of Justice.
4. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?
Community involvement is primarily through the adjudicated youth themselves. A key element of the strategy is the constant and ongoing communication with youth that violence will not be tolerated and that law enforcement is working together to keep watch for their safety. This message is ‘sent’ to youth through forums where youth probationers, DYS residents, students caught with weapons in schools, etc. are notified of the strategy and the comprehensive efforts to have swift intervention at the first sign of violence emerging.
Another aspect of the strategy which is essential to the community representation is the close working relations of the Boston African American clergy, particularly the Ten Point Coalition of churches, which provides youth with alternatives to violence, such as jobs programs, recreational programs, etc.
5. Contact person:
Jim Jordan, Director of Strategic Planning and Resource Development, Boston Police Department, One Schroeder Plaza, Boston, MA 02120 Telephone: 617-343-4304, Facsimile: 617-343-5073.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.