The Effects of "Pulling Levers" Strategies on Crime

The Effects of "Pulling Levers" Focused Deterrence Strategies on Crime


The Campbell Collaboration


Anthony A. Braga & David L. Weisburd

A number of American police departments have been experimenting with new problem-oriented policing frameworks to prevent gang and group-involved violence, generally known as “pulling levers” focused deterrence strategies. Focused deterrence strategies honor core deterrence ideas, such as increasing risks faced by offenders, while finding new and creative ways of deploying traditional and non- traditional law enforcement tools to do so, such as directly communicating incentives and disincentives to targeted offenders. Pioneered in Boston to halt serious gang violence, the focused deterrence framework has been applied in many American cities through federally sponsored violence prevention programs.

In its simplest form, the approach consists of selecting a particular crime problem, such gang homicide; convening an interagency working group of law enforcement, prosecution, other justice agency officials, local government, social service, and community-based practitioners; conducting research to identify key offenders, groups, and behavior patterns; framing a response to offenders and groups of offenders that uses a varied menu of sanctions to stop them from continuing their violent behavior; focusing social services and community resources on targeted offenders and groups to match law enforcement prevention efforts; and directly and repeatedly communicating with offenders to make them understand why they are receiving this special attention. These new strategic approaches have been applied to a range of crime problems, such as overt drug markets and individual repeat offenders, and have shown promising results in the reduction of crime.

This analysis found that nine of the ten eligible evaluations reported statistically significant reductions in crime. It is important to note here the all ten evaluations used nonrandomized quasi-experimental designs.  No randomized controlled trials were identified.  The meta- analysis suggests that pulling levers focused deterrence strategies are associated with an overall statistically-significant, medium-sized crime reduction effect.

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