Profile No. 28

Youth Firearms Violence Initiative -- Milwaukee, WI

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
Initiative to deter gun carrying in high-crime hotspot areas; Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Program Goal:
To break the connection between youth and guns through a combination of enforcement and prevention strategies.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
Youth involved in less serious offenses involving firearms and gangs.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
Milwaukee, WI.

Evaluated by:
Department of Emergency Medicine,
Medical College of Wisconsin; Abt Associates Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Contact Information:
Lieutenant James Galezewski
Milwaukee Police Department
749 West State Street
Milwaukee, WI 53233
Phone: 414­935­7825

Years of Operation:

The Milwaukee Police Department's (MPD's) Youth Firearms Violence Initiative focused enforcement and prevention efforts, supported by enhanced technology, on reducing the number of violent firearm-related crimes committed by youth. Components included the addition of officers to the Gang Crimes/Intelligence Unit, enhancement of curfew activities, and deployment of saturation patrols in high-crime areas. Prevention activities were linked to a youth survey administered by the health department regarding gun-related attitudes and behaviors and to a "Hang Tough" program that combined peer persuasion, public messages, and direct contact with youth and was designed to stigmatize firearm violence. Target areas were determined by Geographic Information System data that indicated a high incidence of juvenile handgun violence. Community-MPD coalitions that included health department and public school collaboration were key elements for both the prevention and intervention strategies.

An earlier survey of 694 youth ages 15 to 24 years old in the same target area revealed that 71 percent resided with their mothers in single-parent households. During the preceding year, 27 percent had been threatened and/or attacked by someone with a gun; 83 percent had heard gunshots in their neighborhood; 86 percent knew someone who had been shot with a handgun; 42 percent had been suspended from school; 35 percent had used drugs; 35 percent had been drunk before; and 20 percent had carried a concealed handgun (54 percent of those had first carried when they were younger than 15 years old). School was the site of the handgun threat in 14 percent of responses and the site of attack in 10 percent. In the survey, "on the street" was the most frequently identified site of both threats (49 percent) and attacks (54 percent). Although 48 percent of youth had friends who carried concealed handguns and 51 percent thought there were times when it was necessary to carry, only 34 percent had ever fired a handgun for any reason (including target practice). Twenty-two percent, however, indicated that they had fired in anger.

From January to September 1996, MPD recovered 2,350 firearms, 70 percent of which were from people under 25 years old. Of those recovered from youth, 30 percent were .22 or .25 caliber, and 32 percent were manufactured by "Ring of Fire" manufacturers, a small group of gun manufacturers in southern California that produces the majority of Saturday night specials.

During the project, the number of firearms recovered increased 58 percent and curfew violation citations increased 64 percent. Firearm-related offenses, however, decreased 7 percent and violent firearm offenses decreased 13 percent. Firearm injuries for those under age 25 decreased 27 percent. From 1995 to 1996, death rates for those 20­24 years old decreased by 11.4 percent; however, death rates for those 15­19 years old increased 11.8 percent.

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Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence OJJDP Report