Campbell Collaboration

Campbell Collaboration Systematic Review Strongly Supports Efficacy of National Network Strategies

New York,  April 2012

A Campbell Collaboration Systematic Review, the gold standard in evaluating social science interventions, has found “strong empirical evidence” for the effectiveness of the approaches to addressing serious violent crime and overt drug markets developed and advanced by the National Network for Safe Communities, a project of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

The Effects of “Pulling Levers” Focused Deterrence Strategies on Crime (Braga & Weisburd, 2012)  confirms what the research record and field experience have long suggested:  that a crime prevention approach that combines deterrence with elements that encourage offenders away from crime, strengthen a community’s collective efficacy, and enhance police legitimacy can create “noteworthy crime reductions.”

Since “Operation Ceasefire” brought about a two-third reduction in youth homicides in Boston in the mid-1990s by focusing a partnership of law enforcement, community figures, and social service providers on offenders and potential offenders, evidence of the efficacy of that approach has been mounting.  Following Boston’s pioneering steps, dozens of cities around the country implemented variations of “Operation Ceasefire” under the Strategic Approaches to Community Safety (SACSI) and Project Safe Neighborhoods initiatives, including a highly effective intervention with individual parolees in Chicago.   In 2003, the approach was mapped onto open-air drug markets in the city of High Point, North Carolina with great success and subsequently replicated in several dozen other cities with support from the Department of Justice.

Ever-growing demand to learn about and apply these interventions culminated in the creation of the National Network for Safe Communities in 2009 to bring together the 50 or so cities actively involved in implementing the group violence reduction strategy (modeled on “Operation Ceasefire”) and the drug market intervention strategy (based on the High Point model). Most recently, interventions aimed at reducing repeat drug use (Hawaii’s HOPE program), drunk driving (South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Project), street robbery, and domestic violence have been emerging as new variations. 

“We launched the National Network for Safe Communities in 2009 along with a core group of our national partners on the basis of the then very strong evaluation record and field experience with these approaches,” said Jeremy Travis, National Network Co-Chair and President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  “It’s wonderful to see the continuing solidification, as supported by the Campbell Collaboration findings, of this crucial evidentiary basis. This is a key moment in the development over almost twenty years of one of the most promising directions in our national struggle to reduce crime in a way that also strengthens communities.”  

Over the course of this almost 20-year history, many of these interventions, including “Operation Ceasefire,” have been subject to formal evaluations.  This body of research has now undergone the rigorous testing of a Campbell Collaboration Systematic Review. The Campbell Collaboration is internationally recognized as setting the highest standard in social and behavioral interventions in education, crime and justice, and social welfare to help policymakers, practitioners, and the public make well informed decisions about policy.

Braga and Weisburd’s Systematic Review concludes:

“… It is important to recognize that focused deterrence strategies are a very recent addition to the existing scholarly literature on crime control and prevention strategies. While the evaluation evidence needs to be strengthened and the theoretical underpinnings of the approach needs further refinement, we believe that jurisdictions suffering from gang violence, overt drug markets, and repeat offender problems should add focused deterrence strategies to their existing portfolio of prevention and control interventions. The existing evidence suggests these new approaches to crime prevention and control generate noteworthy crime reductions.”

The findings of the report underscore the promise of an approach that involves law enforcement engaging with a variety of partners and tailoring an array of tactics to address underlying criminogenic conditions and dynamics.  These entail, in particular, the engagement of family, friends and other influential community members in addressing criminal behavior; the provision of social services and opportunities to offenders and potential offenders; and enhancing public perceptions of the legitimacy of police action to make policing more effective. 

“It is very important to see the scholarly record reflecting and supporting what we see in the field,” said Chicago Superintendent of Police Garry McCarthy. “This approach focuses on the most dangerous offenders, creates both support and consequences where needed, and heals relations with angry communities so that they exercise their own crime control. It not only works, it’s a whole new framework for public safety, and it’s the set of ideas that is guiding the Chicago Police Department,” McCarthy stressed.

Building on this body of evidence, the National Network for Safe Communities is working with cities around the country to further advance its strategies.  In particular, it has focused research and development attention on strengthening police legitimacy, police-community reconciliation, community moral voices, and sustainability as key criteria for successful strategy implementation. It can point to new, dramatic results in numerous member cities as a result of advancing these strategy elements.