Boston Operation Ceasefire

Suppression; Ages 15–21


(Read the criteria for these ratings)
  • Effective gang program
  • Effective adult program


The Boston Operation Ceasefire is a problem-oriented policing deterrence project that instituted a zero-tolerance policy for any law-breaking activity on the part of identified individuals, with the aim of reducing homicide. High-rate violent offenders with histories of gang-related crimes (identified through a review of police arrest records in a problem analysis) were notified in a community meeting that they were subject to long prison sentences for any subsequent law, probation, or parole violations. In these community meetings, federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities were saying explicitly that violence would no longer be tolerated, and backing up that message by pulling every lever legally available when violence occurred. Successful convictions that drew long federal sentences were widely publicized in the community to deter others.

In various Ceasefire sites, a menu of “sticks” and “carrots” was offered to offenders. Sticks were a range of sanctions or “levers” used to encourage gang members to desist from violence by “retailing” the message to gang members that (1) all of them would be held accountable for violence committed by any one of them and that (2) violent crime would have consequences (long prison sentences). Services were offered as an alternative incentive to turn away from crime. These “carrots” can include job training and development, substance abuse treatment, and tattoo removal.

Separate evaluations have been conducted in each Ceasefire site. In a meta-analysis of these, a large reduction in the annual number of youth homicides was reported in Boston and significant decreases were noted in other Ceasefire cities, including Indianapolis, Indiana; Los Angeles, California; Lowell, Massachusetts; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Stockton, California (Braga & Weisburd, 2012).

Risk Factors

Exposure to firearm violence
Gang involvement in adolescence
General delinquency involvement
High alcohol/drug use
High drug dealing
Illegal gun ownership/carrying
Mental health problems
Physical violence/aggression
Violent victimization
Availability and use of drugs in the neighborhood
Availability of firearms
Feeling unsafe in the neighborhood
High-crime neighborhood
Neighborhood physical disorder
Neighborhood youth in trouble
Association with antisocial/aggressive/delinquent peers; high peer delinquency
Association with gang-involved peers/relatives
Peer alcohol/drug use


Effective program:, Model Program Guide, National Gang Center


David M. Kennedy
National Network for Safe Communities
Phone: (212) 484-1323
Web site:


Braga, A. A., and Hureau, D. M. (2012). Strategic problem analysis to guide comprehensive gang violence reduction strategies. In E. Gebo & B. J. Bond (Eds.), Beyond suppression: Community strategies to reduce gang violence (pp. 129–151). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Braga, A. A., Papachristos, A. V., & Hureau, D. M. (2012). The effects of hot spots policing on crime: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Justice Quarterly, iFirst:1–31.

Braga, A. A., and Weisburd, D. L. (2012). The effects of focused deterrence strategies on crime: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the empirical evidence. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 49, 323–358.

Kennedy, D. M. (2010). Taking criminology seriously: Narratives, norms, networks, and common ground. In R. J. Chaskin (Ed.), Youth gangs and community intervention: Research, practice, and evidence (pp. 206–221). New York: Columbia University Press.

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