Operation Peacekeeper is a community and problem-oriented policing program that was implemented in 1997 to address gun violence among youth gang members in Stockton, Calif. The program’s goal is to reduce gang involvement among urban youth aged 10 to 18 and decrease gun-related violence among gang-involved youths. It is modeled after the Ceasefire Initiative by the Boston (Mass.) Police Department, which used detailed information about gang activity to identify problem areas and reduce gang-related violence in the Boston metropolitan area.
To convey a credible, clear message about the consequences of gang violence to youths already involved in or at risk of being involved in gangs, Operation Peacekeeper relies on Youth Outreach Workers to communicate to youths that they have better options for their lives. Youth Outreach Workers are streetwise young men and women trained in community organizing, mentoring, mediation, conflict resolution, and case management. Working in neighborhood settings wherever young people at risk of violence are found—including schools, parks, street corners, and apartment complexes—the Youth Outreach Workers serve as mentors and positive role models for youth. Their role is to make sure youths understand the consequences of violence and that there are positive alternatives to gang membership.
The program uses a problem-oriented policing paradigm to address specific problem areas and offenders. In particular, it uses the “pulling levers” deterrence strategy, which tackles a specific problematic criminal activity by implementing specialized prevention or intervention techniques. In Stockton, this strategy focused on the issue of gun violence among youth gang members.
Operation Peacekeeper uses outreach workers in collaboration with government and community-based organizations to provide resources for youths to escape a gang lifestyle. The program also depends on the involvement of the community to help influence criminal justice agencies to construct customized solutions.
10 to 18
Gun Homicide in Stockton
Braga’s (2008) pre/post–comparisons showed that the average monthly count of gun homicide incidents decreased by approximately 35 percent during the time Operation Peacekeeper was in place (1997–2002) in Stockton, Calif. In the time period prior to the intervention, the monthly average was 2.9 gun homicides; the monthly average then dropped to 1.9 during the intervention period. After the Peacekeeper intervention ceased, the monthly average of gun homicides increased slightly to 2.1 incidents but still remained relatively low. According to the results of the regression analysis, the Peacekeeper strategy was associated with a statistically significant decrease in the monthly number of gun homicides, controlling for other predictor variables. The analysis demonstrated that Operation Peacekeeper was associated with an overall 42 percent decrease in the monthly number of gun homicide incidents in Stockton.
Gun Homicides in 8 Other Cities
The results of the comparison quasi-experiment showed that none of the eight California cities experienced a statistically significant drop in crime rates during the Peacekeeper intervention. This outcome suggests that when compared to gun homicide trends in other midsize California cities, the reduction in homicides in Stockton can be associated with the Peacekeeper intervention.
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