• Center for Problem oriented policing

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Understanding Your Local Problem

The information provided above is only a generalized description of drive-by shootings. You must combine these basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.


In addition to criminal justice agencies, the following groups have an interest in the drive-by shooting problem and should be considered for the contribution they might make to gathering information about the problem, and responding to it:

  • local hospitals and emergency services
  • city public works agencies (e.g., parking, streets, transportation, utilities)
  • federal law enforcement agencies (e.g., Drug Enforcement Administration; Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms)
  • probation and parole agencies
  • corrections departments (particularly those with reentry programs that monitor offenders' return to the streets and their impact on the community)
  • bar and nightclub owners and managers
  • social service providers
  • gang members and members of other neighborhood "groups"
  • neighborhood associations.

Asking the Right Questions

The following are some critical questions you should ask when analyzing your particular problem of drive-by shootings, even if the answers are not always readily available.§ Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.

§ The analysis phase of problem-oriented responses to gun violence has historically been weak. See Braga (2005) for guidance on making the analysis phase more robust.

Incidents and Motivations

  • How many drive-by shootings have occurred?
  • What proportion of the incidents appear to have arisen from spontaneous arguments or interpersonal conflicts?
  • What proportion of the incidents appear to be connected to known tensions or rivalries among local gangs?
  • What proportion of the incidents appear to be drug-related?
  • What proportion of the incidents appear to be retaliatory?
  • What other motivations for the incidents can you identify?
  • Did anyone other than the victim witness the incidents?
  • How did you identify the witnesses?
  • Of what quality was the information obtained from witnesses? If poor, what interfered with the ability to get useful information from them?


  • What were the characteristics of drive-by shooting victims (e.g., gender, age, race, or ethnicity)?
  • Did the victims have any connections to or ongoing conflicts with the offenders? Or did they appear to be innocent bystanders?
  • Were the victims gang-affiliated? Were they involved in the drug trade? Were they armed when the shooting occurred?
  • Did the victims or bystanders return fire?
  • What were the victims doing just before the shooting? Were they alone or with others?
  • How did the victims arrive at the shooting location?
  • Were the victims under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the shooting?
  • What was the extent of the injuries sustained? How quickly was medical attention obtained?
  • What were the characteristics of nonperson targets (e.g., car, house, other structure)? Why were these targets selected? Where there any characteristics making them vulnerable to attack?


  • What were the offenders' characteristics (e.g., gender, age, race, or ethnicity)?
  • Did they have previous involvement with the criminal justice system? Were they currently under some form of criminal justice supervision that could be leveraged?
  • Were the offenders gang-affiliated? Were they involved in the drug trade?
  • Were the offenders under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the shooting?
  • Did they target the victims specifically, or did they select them randomly?
  • What type of gun was used, and how was it obtained? What happened to the gun after the shooting?
  • Why was the offender carrying the gun at that time?
  • What were the reasons offenders offered for owning a gun? Under what conditions might they be convinced to relinquish them?
  • Whose vehicle was used? Was it owned, borrowed, rented, or stolen?
  • How many other people were in the car during the shooting? What were their roles in the incident? How did they facilitate or discourage the offender from shooting?
  • Was anyone in the vehicle injured? What was the extent of injury? How quickly was medical attention obtained?

Locations and Times

  • Where do drive-by shootings occur? Are they concentrated in any identifiable patterns?
  • What are these hotspots characteristics? Are they clustered near main thoroughfares? Businesses (e.g., bars and night clubs)? Other places where people congregate (e.g., residential parties, liquor stores, illegal gambling houses)? Do they provide for easy access and escape?
  • Are there features of the immediate environment that shield the offenders from view (e.g., poor lighting, overgrown vegetation) or that otherwise make the location attractive? Are there any physical barriers at other locations that appear to prevent the problem?
  • Do other types of crime affect the area?
  • What times of the day and days of the week do drive-by shootings occur?
  • Are there other features of the environment that are connected to these times and days (e.g., bar closing times)? Which of these could be strategically modified?

Current Responses

  • How are intergang tensions currently monitored? Has your department made any efforts toward mediation? Which of these were successful?
  • Are any controllers—i.e., people who could prevent the offenders from causing harm—available?
  • How do bars and nightclubs monitor and try to defuse interpersonal conflicts on their premises? How could the managers of these places be engaged?
  • Does traffic congestion or the physical condition of roads appear to contribute to road rage? How could these be modified?

Measuring Your Effectiveness

Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. All measures should be taken in both the target area and the surrounding area. For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the Problem-Solving Tools Guide, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.

The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to drive-by shootings. Process-related measures identify whether responses have been implemented as designed. These include

  • increases in the number of searches for illegal guns conducted in high-risk places
  • increases in the number of guns seized, followed by a reduction in the number of guns seized
  • increases in the number of intergang disputes that are mediated and settled without violence
  • reductions in the number of instances in which gun owners rearm themselves after seizure
  • increases in the number of bars and nightclubs that enact violence prevention measures
  • improved witness cooperation with investigations of drive-by shootings
  • increases in perceptions of safety among residents and local merchants.

Outcome-related measures are used to determine whether responses have reduced the size or scope of the problem. These include

  • reductions in the number of drive-by shooting incidents
  • absence of displacement to other locations
  • reductions in the number of victims of drive-by shootings
  • reductions in the number of stationary targets (e.g., structures, vehicles) damaged by drive-by shootings
  • reductions in the severity of injuries victims sustain
  • reductions in the number of nonfatal and fatal injuries victims sustain.
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