The Boston Operation Ceasefire targeted youth and adult gang members in a multiagency coordinated Youth Violence Strike Force. It was based on an analysis of homicide among Boston’s youth that determined that this violence was gang-centered, neighborhood-based, and concentrated in a small number of repeat-offending, gang-involved youth. The program was initiated in individual neighborhoods with an explicit communication campaign. This campaign began with an orientation for community groups and was then often carried out face to face with gang members, who were given the message that gang violence had provoked a zero-tolerance approach and that only an end to gang violence would stop new gang-focused suppression activities. The long sentences that offenders received were publicized in high-crime neighborhoods. The program components described above built upon and integrated the efforts of grassroots organizations and the faith community.
The multiagency task force of Boston police officers and others from outside agencies suppressed youth and adult gang violence and gun use. Suppression tactics included “pulling levers” to impose costs on offenders related to their chronic offending by serving warrants, enforcing probation restrictions, and deploying federal enforcement powers. Under another component of the program—Operation Night Light—police and probation officers, working in teams, made nightly visits to the homes of youth on probation to ensure that they were complying with the terms and conditions of their probation. This helped target tough enforcement efforts against gang leaders. City “streetworkers” (outreach workers, gang prevention, and mediation specialists) also worked in tandem with police and probation officers, helping resolve conflicts and linking youth who wanted help with needed services.
A comparison of Boston’s youth violence trends with other cities during the program period suggests that Operation Ceasefire may have been effective in reducing youth homicides, gun assault incidents, and “shots fired” calls for service. The intervention was associated with a statistically significant decrease (63 percent) in the monthly number of youth homicides. However, Operation Ceasefire was but one element of a collaborative, comprehensive strategy implemented in Boston. Others included Boston’s Ten-Point Coalition. The Operation Ceasefire program has been replicated in other cities, including Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Los Angeles.
National Gang Center and OJJDP Model Programs Guide: Promising program
Mr. David M. Kennedy
Center for Crime Prevention and Control
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
899 Tenth Avenue, Room 437T
New York, NY 10019
Phone: (212) 484-1323
Braga, A. A.; Kennedy, D. M.; Waring, E. J.; and Piehl, A. M. (2001). “Problem-Oriented Policing, Deterrence, and Youth Violence: An Evaluation of Boston’s Operation Ceasefire.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 38:195–225.
Braga, A. A., and Pierce, G. L. (2005). “Disrupting Illegal Firearms Markets in Boston: The Effects of Operation Ceasefire on the Supply of New Handguns to Criminals.” Criminology and Public Policy, 4(4):717–748.