Profile No. 21

Operation Ceasefire -- Boston, MA

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
Program to deter gun carrying in high-crime hotspot areas; National Institute of Justice.

Program Goal:
To reduce serious juvenile and gang violence in Boston.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
Youth ages 8 to 18.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
Boston, MA.

Evaluated by:
Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

Contact Information:
James Jordan
Gary French
Boston Police Department
1 Schroeder Plaza
Boston, MA 02120
Phone: 617­343­5096 or 617­343­4444

David Kennedy
Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: 617­495­5188

Years of Operation:

Operation Ceasefire was first implemented in May 1996 as a coordinated, citywide strategy aimed at deterring juvenile and gang firearm violence. Ceasefire operates as a system that implements interventions that include the knowledge and coordination of all of the city's law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. The strategy was developed by the Boston Police Department's Youth Violence Strike Force (YVSF), a multiagency task force composed of approximately 62 sworn officers, in collaboration with the Attorney for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and representatives from numerous agencies and institutions, including Federal, State, and local law enforcement; parole and probation officers; the mayor's office; city agencies; clergy; and several universities.

YVSF devised a core strategy based on previous research and successful antigang tactics: Law enforcement would communicate to gangs that there would be swift, sure, and severe consequences for violence.

Operation Ceasefire is being evaluated by a research team from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Preliminary data suggest that this strategy has had a dramatic impact on reducing gang violence. After two focused interagency interventions with violent gangs, matched with the communications strategy, violent gang offending dropped markedly, sometimes appearing almost to have stopped. For the second full year of operation, through May 31, 1998, there was a 71-percent decrease in homicides by persons ages 24 and under and a 70-percent reduction in gun assaults (for all ages).

Operation Ceasefire is one element of a collaborative, comprehensive strategy implemented in Boston to address the community's escalating violent crime rates. For a more detailed description of Operation Ceasefire, and a discussion of how this program fits into Boston's overall crime reduction strategy, see profile 2.

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