Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses to Drive-by Shootings

The table below summarizes the responses to drive-by shootings, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they should work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

General Considerations for an Effective Response
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If…Considerations
1Focusing on proximate causesAddresses those factors that make drive-by shootings easier to carry out; frustrates shooters' intention…responses target the tools and situations that give rise to the problemDoes not address the underlying factors that contribute to interpersonal violence, gang membership, or the facilitating influence of alcohol and drugs
2Targeting the activity, not the individualAvoids conferring additional status on gang membership; avoids increasing group cohesivenessresponses focus on the harm caused by the behavior rather than the group membership of the people causing the harmRequires a narrow focus on a specific behavior and may leave other problems unaddressed
3Understanding gang membership dynamicsFocuses efforts on the motivations and current tensions that motivate drive-by shootingsquality information on local gangs is availableRequires close, candid communication between gang units and officers combating the drive-by shooting problem
Specific Responses To Reduce Drive-By Shootings
Reducing the Availability or Prevalence of Weapons
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
4Conducting crackdownsEnhances police visibility; deters potential offenders from carrying guns; incapacitates potential offenders when police seize weaponsspecific offenses, places, and offenders are targeted; it's directed by crime analysis; those likely to commit gun violence drive, rather than walkCan waste time and resources if large numbers of guns are not seized; can have a negative effect on police-community relations
5Initiating "sweeps" targeting known offendersIncapacitating high-risk offenders by removing tools used to commit violencehigh-risk offenders are carefully targeted; offenders do not rearm themselvesInteragency collaboration can be challenging; reductions are likely to be short term; can be difficult to agree on most-high-risk offenders; can be perceived as harassing offenders who are complying withsupervision conditions
6Obtaining consent to search for and seize weaponsSends message that the police and the community will not tolerate gun possession; incapacitates gun owners by removing tools used to commit violencea low-key approach is used; great care is taken to ensure that consent is truly voluntary; the department places priority on reducing gun availability rather than prosecuting those who have guns; the program is of sufficient size to ensure that the number of weapons seized will affect the crime rateCan aggravate some of the conditions it is intended to alleviate (e.g., rebellion against parents); youth may rearm themselves; will not reduce crimes adults commit
Identifying Situations With the Potential for Violence
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
7Tracking current tensions and past altercationsAllows police to identify and intervene in situations with the potential for lethal violenceinformation is properly organized so patterns can be identified; local gang dynamics are understood; skilled mediators are availableNeed dependable sources of intelligence; need to be able to respond immediately to crisis situations; may legitimize gang membership; information needs to be continually updated; can be difficult to sustain analysis
8Coordinating with hospitalsIncreases the likelihood of victim identification and understanding victims' relationships to offendersa simple communication procedure is established; police are dispatched to hospitals when victims are not known to themNeed to negotiate legal barriers to sharing medical information; could deter victims from seeking medical attention
9Preventing high-risk people from riding in cars with each otherAllows police to intervene in situations that could result in a drive-by shooting...people likely to participate in drive-by shootings can be identified; police are notified when named people are seen in a car togetherInjunctions have faced First Amendment challenges for prohibiting otherwise legal activities; injunctions are difficult and time-consuming to set up; probation and parole conditions must be enforced to carry a deterrent value
Making Environmental Changes
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
10Closing streetsControls access to targets; decreases offender mobility; increases defensible spacesupported by police and citizen patrols; offenders come from outside of the targeted areaAddressing the concerns of various stakeholders requires significant time and effort; the effects are likely to evaporate if barriers are removed; rival gang turf may not be clearly identified
Responding to Incidents and Increasing Sanctions
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
11Deploying response teamsProvides rapid response to crime scenes; affords the opportunity to interceptretaliation plansassigned officers have expertise in local gang dynamics; residents trust assigned officersSpecial assignments take officers out of regular patrol rotation; witnesses may remain unwilling to cooperate
12Creating witness incentivesIncreases the likelihood that police will identify offenders; affords the opportunity to intercept retaliation planscommunity norms discouraging cooperation are addressed; expensive resources are conserved for witnesses at greatest riskMust have resources for monetary incentives and relocation; community outreach efforts require time and patience
13Implementing a "pulling levers" focused- deterrence strategyMakes a clear connection between involvement in gun violence and consequences imposed; exploits the social structure of gangs by holding the group responsible for individual behaviora daunting array of sanctions and a tempting array of services are availableStrategy based on collective responsibility may not be effective if gangs are not cohesive; interagency coordination requires significant time and effort
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
14Targeting gun traffickersAssumes offenders procure guns from organized dealers Does not focus on the sources of guns most likely to be used in drive-by shootings
15Implementing "gun buyback" programsAssumes reducing gun ownership will lead to decreases in gun violence Those willing to relinquish weapons are not the people likely to commit drive-by shootings; does not focus on the guns most likely to be used in drive-by shootings
16Teaching conflict resolution skillsAssumes skills learned in a classroom setting will transfer to situations with high emotional states and bystander encouragement Classroom-based skill development does not mimic the actual conditions under which the skills will need to be applied
17Restricting entry to high-risk neighborhoodsControls access to high-risk places Likely to incur very strong opposition from residents and business owners; raises serious Fourth Amendment concerns
18Impounding cars that are not properly registeredRemoves one of the tools needed to conduct a drive-by shooting Likely to capture people who are not at risk of conducting a drive-by shooting; low weapons yield makes it difficult to justify the expenditure of resources