June 13, 2006

Youth Gang Violence Prevention Ten Years After The Boston Miracle

At the height of the national youth gun violence epidemic in 1996, the city of Boston became famous for implementing a strategy that was given credit by many for reducing the youth homicide rate to zero, and keeping it there for several years. The strategy was called Operation Cease Fire and was coordinated by a working group consisting of representatives from the Boston Police Department, Probation, the District Attorney and U.S. Attorney’s office, many other criminal justice agencies, social service agencies, ministers from neighborhood churches (known as the TenPoint Coalition) and researchers from the Kennedy School of Government. The key elements of Cease Fire included:

  • Regular working group meetings that were used to analyze data on gang violence and develop plans for reducing it;
  • Announcements and publicizing of the Cease Fire, and plans to enforce it;
  • Enhanced enforcement by all agencies against gangs found to have violated the Cease Fire;
  • Mobilization of community support for the strategy, particularly by the TenPoint Coalition, that regularly walked the neighborhoods;