clear Section II: Solving the Problem of Gun Violence

Developing a Comprehensive Strategy

To protect their citizens' health and safety, and to address fear of gun violence, many communities are successfully combating such violence by adopting a strategy that takes into account the specific gun violence problem experienced by their community and then identifies an appropriate solution. This problem-solving approach requires that stakeholders in the community collaborate to develop and implement a comprehensive gun violence reduction plan. Although one stakeholder (e.g., law enforcement, a public official, or a community group) may initiate the process and the same stakeholder (or another) may spearhead it, consultation and collaboration are essential.

This section outlines the steps for developing and implementing a comprehensive gun violence reduction plan. These are: (1) establish appropriate stakeholder partnerships, (2) identify and measure the problem, (3) set measurable goals and objectives, (4) identify appropriate programs and strategies, (5)implement the comprehensive plan, (6) evaluate the plan, and (7) revise the plan on the basis of the evaluation.

Establish stakeholder partnerships

Gun violence does not discriminate. It strikes purposefully and randomly, in inner cities and rural towns, wounding rich and poor, blind to differences in skin color and religion. In short, gun violence operates throughout the community. As a result, participation from Federal, State, and local law enforcement; juvenile justice authorities; businesses; families; faith communities; civic organizations; and health and social service agencies is necessary to successfully prevent gun violence. Harnessing the resources of these stakeholders and creating a successful partnership frequently requires strong leadership from law enforcement. However, a successful partnership invites multiple perspectives and allows for the sharing of responsibilities and accomplishments.

Identify and measure the problem

Different stakeholders have different perceptions of gun violence. These different perceptions may make it difficult to agree on the primary gun violence issues that need to be addressed. Because perceptions of problems are not always accurate, it is important to know which problems are real and to act on them. In developing a comprehensive gun violence reduction plan, communities should seek consensus on the primary issues. Consensus is possible when stakeholders examine information from several sources and share it widely. As has been proven in New York City and elsewhere, local crime analysis -- including thorough crime mapping -- to identify and predict emerging crime patterns is an effective tool in designing crime reduction interventions.

Set measurable goals and objectives

Goals describe broad purposes of anticipated measurable accomplishments. Objectives are the sequential, measurable steps needed to achieve each goal. Setting an unrealistic goal, such as eliminating violence, increases the likelihood of failure and invites criticism. A goal is more useful when it is reasonably specific and is supported by a fairly short list of objectives. Goals and objectives are based on accurate data and the identification of community-specific problems. Realistic and attainable goals lead to greater commitment and, ultimately, long-term success.

Objectives describe "who will do how much of what by when." Often the objectives are written in sequential order, but multiple objectives are generally addressed in overlapping periods of time. Measurable objectives allow for determinations of when, and whether, they have been achieved. However, they do not need to be so specific that every minor action is included. Stating the primary objectives is sufficient to allow accountability and to monitor progress. Goals and objectives need to be revised over time as an affected community gains wisdom and experience. Communicating the goals to all stakeholders throughout the course of an intervention is vital.

Identify appropriate programs and strategies

Although some programs and strategies are more effective than others, no single program or strategy is effective in combating all three phases of the continuum of gun violence. The best approach for a community seeking a comprehensive response to gun violence typically calls for a mix of programs and strategies based on the goals, objectives, needs, and resources identified in the community's comprehensive plan.

When selecting programs and strategies, communities should consider these factors:

  • The availability of personnel and administrative, technological, and other resources.

  • Any evidence of past effectiveness.

  • The match between the program or strategy and the goals and objectives of the comprehensive plan.

  • The appropriateness of the techniques and images employed by the program or strategy to the racial, ethnic, and religious makeup of the community.

Section III describes model programs that have proven effective or appear promising. A community may choose to implement several programs and strategies simultaneously or sequentially. Communities should bear in mind that many innovative strategies and programs (including those listed in section III) work because they were designed to solve a problem driven by specific local dynamics and will not necessarily be effective in other circumstances. Communities should consider carefully whether selected strategies and programs need to be adapted to meet local conditions. In considering different programs and strategies, communities will want to consider existing local and Federal gun laws that govern how guns are legally possessed, who may possess them, and what the comparative penalties are for criminal possession and use of guns.

Finally, it makes sense to balance programs and strategies that impact all three phases of the gun violence continuum and emphasize prevention in addition to punishment. Having selected a mix of programs and strategies, a community should carefully develop a plan to assess the effectiveness of their particular combination as applied.

Implement the comprehensive plan

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Communities differ in the way they implement their comprehensive plans. All communities should, however, take certain basic steps. Gearing up for implementation, stakeholders will likely want to seek broad community support through a public awareness campaign. Participants also will need to be trained in implementation of the program or strategy.

Continuous monitoring and assessment are critical steps in the actual implementation of the plan. The following questions should be asked before and during implementation in order to determine the efficacy of the implementation:

  • Have you developed procedures for monitoring the implementation of the plan?

  • Is there consistency between actual implementation events and the plan?

  • Do budgeted costs match actual costs?

  • What is the response of community members to the plan?

  • Are there unforeseen barriers to implementation?

  • Are there unintended negative consequences of the selected programs or strategies?

  • What adjustments need to be made?

Communities should anticipate problems (barriers, unintended consequences, unforeseen changes, need for adjustments) and view them as opportunities for collaborative resolution.

Evaluate the plan

Evaluation is a critical component of a comprehensive gun violence reduction plan. It serves several purposes:

  • Increases the effectiveness of management and administration of the plan.

  • Documents that objectives have or have not been met.

  • Determines the overall efficacy of the plan and its component programs and strategies.

Conducting an evaluation or a series of evaluations helps to ensure accountability, establishes whether the plan is making a difference, and provides important feedback for improving the plan.

Revise the plan on the basis of the evaluation

A well-designed evaluation yields vital information. Evaluation results may suggest that changes should be made in the selection or implementation of programs and strategies, that additional training is warranted, or that other stakeholders need to be involved. Recommendations for improvement may come from the original partnership of stakeholders or from individual stakeholder groups. Assessments by the stakeholder partnership and by individual stakeholders will reveal which activities were most and least effective, which materials worked best and worst, and how barriers were overcome or proved insurmountable. If a community administers a comprehensive gun violence reduction plan for a substantial period of time with little or no progress toward identified objectives, an entirely new plan may need to be implemented.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Anti-Violent Crime Initiative (AVCI) -- introduced in 1994 -- serves as one valuable model of the strategic planning process. To implement the AVCI, every U.S. Attorney met with all pertinent Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies and formed a new, or newly strengthened, violent crime working group. These working groups identified and prioritized the critical violent crime problems that are susceptible to a coordinated Federal/State/local approach. They also developed short- and long-range objectives and implemented programs and strategies to address the relevant local crime problems. More information is available from your local U.S. Attorney's office.

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Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence OJJDP Report