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The information provided above is only a generalized description of youth gun violence. Research has shown that criminal and disorderly youth gangs and groups vary widely both within and across cities.25 (For example, Boston gangs were small, loosely organized, mostly neighborhood-based groups, unlike Chicago and Los Angeles gangs.) You must combine the 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.
Analyses of youth gun violence should combine official data with street-level knowledge to provide a dynamic, real-life picture of the problem. The experiences, observations, and historical perspectives of police officers, street workers, and others in routine contact with offenders, communities, and criminal networks are underused resources for describing, understanding, and crafting interventions aimed at crime problems. Collecting data through interviews and focus groups can help you refine existing practitioner knowledge.26 For example, you can greatly enhance official data on youth gun violence by systematically reviewing and recording the circumstances of each incident in a working-group setting. Crime mapping is also an important tool in assessing youth gun violence. It can provide important insights on the locations of gun crimes, gang turf, and drug markets.
Interested readers should consult the National Institute of Justice Mapping and Analysis for Public Safety website, at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/maps/.
The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular problem of youth gun violence, 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.
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 companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.)
The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to youth gun violence:
It is important to recognize that gun recoveries may initially increase when police start a gun violence-reduction program. If the responses are effective, this initial increase will be followed by a decrease in gun recoveries.
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