POP Center Responses Focused Deterrence Page 4

PHASE 1: Program Planning and Implementation                                   

Focused-deterrence initiatives require a great deal of coordination and collaboration among government and non-government organizations, as well as community groups. Accordingly, careful program planning and implementation are critical to an initiative’s success. At minimum, if you are tasked with organizing an FDI, you must line up and coordinate the agencies and organizations needed to impose sanctions on and provide services to high-risk individuals. Below are examples of key law enforcement, social service, and community partners in FDIs:

Law Enforcement Partners

  • Local police (municipal and county levels)
  • Federal law enforcement agencies (e.g., Federal Bureau of Investigation; Drug Enforcement Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives; U.S. Marshals Service)
  • State law enforcement agencies
  • Federal and state prosecutors (e.g., U.S. Attorney’s Office and state attorney general offices)
  • Local prosecutors (e.g., district, state, county, city attorney offices)
  • Probation and parole agencies (for adult and juvenile offenders if FDI includes both)
  • Pretrial services agencies

Social Services Partners

  • Employment and job training organizations
  • Youth and gang outreach organizations
  • Child and family services organizations
  • Schools (if juveniles are among high-risk offenders)
  • Churches and other faith-based organizations that provide social services
  • Housing authorities
  • Public and mental health organizations
Kansas City, Missouri, SPI Case Study: Implementation

In the spring of 2012 the Jackson County prosecutor, mayor of Kansas City, and Kansas City police chief were all new to their offices and shared a vision to implement focused deterrence. They formed the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA), which became the first collaborative effort ever attempted to reduce Kansas City’s homicide rate.

As law enforcement and prosecutorial players were mandated to come to the table, the challenge KC NoVA faced was to use community strength to augment their efforts. KC NoVA made it a priority to identify prospective partners early in the implementation process and facilitated informational sessions about focused deterrence to civic and community groups. The informal networking that occurred after these sessions helped KC NoVA find organizations willing to contribute. After one of the informational sessions, KC NoVA discovered a group of mothers who had all lost their children to homicide; this group called themselves “Mothers in Charge.” The mothers would become the most prominent supporters and by far the most impactful of speakers at the call-in sessions.

Proper implementation will require agencies to conduct significant internal training in focused deterrence. The Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) integrated a focused-deterrence educational module into the mandatory annual training all employees received. KCPD also focused on the realignment of investigative and uniformed personnel to accomplish the enforcement needs of focused deterrence. Crime analysts, gang detectives, uniformed street impact officers, and other officers who investigated weapons violations were co-located and placed under one chain of command.

The process of implementing focused deterrence requires agencies to be more surgical in their crime prevention efforts and facilitates positive police and community engagement. By fostering a culture of prevention and outreach instead of arrest and prosecution, the KCPD has seen significant support for its efforts to enhance police legitimacy.

Community Partners

  • Informal community leaders (i.e., citizens who have earned general respect from others in the community)
  • Neighborhood associations
  • Local clergy
  • Local chapters of civil rights organizations
  • Business associations
  • Youth service organizations
  • Researchers

Non-government and non-social service community members play key roles in FDIs, particularly in expressing community values, desires, and commitments to high-risk offenders, as well as monitoring individuals’ behavior and reporting transgressions to police. Ex-offenders who have successfully turned away from criminal lifestyles and become responsible community members are particularly valuable in this regard. In some FDIs, a reformed offender speaks to the group to encourage the high-risk offenders to change their lifestyles and to testify as to how they did so.14 Community members can also provide law enforcement and social service providers with valuable information about community dynamics and issues that help them better understand how a particular community functions.15 Lay community members are not likely to be as productive serving on project steering committees because most will lack the necessary expertise and authority—as well as the time and other resources—required for effective participation.

Kansas City No Violence Alliance Planning Meeting

Kansas City No Violence Alliance Planning Meeting

One of the main lessons learned from early FDIs is that the partnerships and collaborations necessary to make them effective take serious effort to establish and maintain, particularly in jurisdictions that lack a positive history of such multi-partner collaborations. When relations between police/prosecutors and communities (especially minority communities) are strained, perhaps owing to policing and prosecution practices that are perceived to unfairly discriminate against minority-group members, FDIs may be impractical until at least a basic level of community trust in police and prosecutors is restored.h

Each of the key partners listed above has unique perspectives on crime control and on different groups’ respective roles in it. It is not always easy, for example, for police and clergy, or for prosecutors and social workers, to understand and respect one another’s perspectives on crime control, let alone try to integrate them.

If strong, trusting relationships among these various partners do not exist in a community prior to establishing an FDI, stakeholders must be prepared to invest time in building them before officially launching the FDI. Someone with a thorough understanding of focused deterrence should carefully explain its principles to others not familiar with them and listen to others’ concerns and viewpoints in crafting the local collaboration.i In several jurisdictions, a year or more was spent building the coalition before the actual work was undertaken.16


h See Braga and Winship (2006) and Kennedy and Wong (2009) for descriptions of the work done to restore minority communities’ trust in the police before implementing their FDIs in Boston and High Point, North Carolina, respectively. 

i Kristen Maziarka (2014), a graduate student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, conducted an interesting analysis of the competing rhetoric surrounding the Kansas City FDI, with some rhetoric emphasizing the tough law enforcement dimensions of the initiative, and some rhetoric emphasizing its supportive social-service dimensions.