Profile No. 22

Operation Safe Streets Gang Prevention Initiative -- Phoenix, AZ

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
Program to deter gun carrying in high-crime hotspot areas.

Program Goal:
To apply a proactive, community-based policing approach to suppress criminal street gang violence and youth-related crimes during the summer months.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
Gang members.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
Phoenix, AZ.

Evaluated by:
Internal data collection.

Contact Information:
Lieutenant Joe Klima
Phoenix Police Department
620 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85003
Phone: 602­262­7311

Years of Operation:

Operation Safe Streets (OSS) was launched in 1990, a year when there were 580 gang-related violent incidents in the city of Phoenix. Of these, 377 were gang-related aggravated assaults; 171 were drive-by shootings; and 3 were homicides directly linked to gangs. In response, the Phoenix Police Department established OSS to suppress criminal street gang violence and youth-related crimes during the summer months. From the outset, community participation in the initiative has been critical; police rely on local residents to help them identify gang members through a gang hotline; and OSS attends public meetings to inform residents of police activities and build community support.

OSS's four main objectives are to: (1) reduce gang-related violent offenses by 5 percent during the summer months; (2) investigate 95percent of the violent crimes involving criminal street gangs; (3) respond within 5days to 100 percent of citizens' complaints of criminal street gang activity within their neighborhoods; and (4) maximize the enforcement of weapons violations through the use of appropriate Federal and State prosecutorial venues.

In the summer of 1998, a budget of $150,000 was set aside to cover overtime pay for more than 70 law enforcement officers assigned to OSS. Officers included personnel from the Organized Crime Bureau's Gang Enforcement Unit, the Patrol Division, the Traffic Enforcement Unit, and the statewide Gang Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission (a special task force of the Department of Public Safety). An ATF agent also is assigned to OSS and is responsible for reviewing weapons violations cases to see if they qualify for Federal prosecution and then sending letters to the county prosecutor when cases have been transferred to Federal court.

Crime statistics on the achievement of the program's four objectives are tallied each week. In 1997, OSS seized 213 guns; made 2,647 arrests; identified 439 gang members; interrogated 1,511 people; processed 681 curfew violations; attended 28 block watch meetings; received 13 citizen referrals and 15 precinct referrals for gang problems; and issued 10,177 traffic citations.

Police statistics for OSS in 1998 (OSS98) indicate that gang-related violent crimes were reduced by one-third compared to the previous summer (there were 57 violent incidents in the summer of 1998, compared with 86 in the summer of 1997). Other data from OSS98 show that: (1) officers logged close to 19,000 overtime hours; (2) there were a total 1,501 arrests (424 adult felonies, 723 adult misdemeanors, 125 juvenile felonies, and 229 juvenile misdemeanors); (3) 6,745 traffic citations were issued; (4) OSS officers conducted 575 interrogations; (5)992 new gang members were identified; (6) updated information was collected on 959 existing gang members; and (7) 110 weapons were seized.

Representatives from the unit also attended 9 block watch or community meetings, and the 24 residents who filed gang complaints were contacted within 5 days of their complaints.

The public continues to perceive a high rate of gang violence despite data showing that the problem has considerably abated. In 1997, there were 357 violent incidents (compared with 918 cases in the peak year of 1992), 226 aggravated assaults, 86 drive-by shootings, and 11 homicides attributable to gangs.

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