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Data-Driven Gunfire Hotspot Policing: Examining the Efficacy of Reactive and Place-Based Problem-Solving Approaches in Reducing Gunfire in St. Louis

Award Information

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Competitive Discretionary
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Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $499,980)

Data-Driven Gunfire Hotspot Policing: Examining the Efficacy of Reactive and Place-Based Problem-Solving Approaches in Reducing Gunfire in St. Louis.


In this proposal we outline the need to leverage existing technologies and capabilities to combat and prevent endemic gun violence in neighborhoods and micro-places. In particular, we seek to develop and evaluate (1) a data-driven reactive and (2) a preventative strategy that brings together data, analysis and existing capabilities of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD). The focus in either strategy is to provide enhanced services that take community needs in consideration and contribute to increasing trust and confidence in law enforcement. Ultimately the aim is to suppress illegal gunfire and reduce gun violence.

            The reactive strategy focuses on developing what we provisionally term an Enhanced Response Unit (ERU) to an area with high levels of gun violence and an underutilized acoustic gunshot detection system. Rather than simply a patrol unit, the ERU will be trained and focused to rapidly dispatch solely to gun crimes during times when reporting by residents is at its lowest, yet gun crimes at its highest. Currently, response times are severely depressed as such incidents bottleneck the law enforcement response in space and time, severely impacting evidence collection and victim assistance. In addition to a regular patrol officer, the ERU will also be staffed by officers of the Gun Crime Information Center (GCIC) that can provide immediate field access to gun and offender information and have expertise in collecting evidence (i.e., ballistics). The strategy seeks to raise accountability for gun offenders and reduce response times to increase community safety. In addition, officers will communicate with nearby residents to explain their activities and stress the need for community involvement.

            The preventative strategy will focus on using acoustic gunfire data to rapidly identify problem locations, characterized by extreme levels of gunfire. Here the primary focus is not on the direct police response, but about engaging in a problem-solving approach. The department in collaboration with the Research Partner will randomly assign half of the identified locations to treatment and half to control status. Treated location will be assigned a mobile surveillance unit, while an opportunity-reduction plan will be developed and executed that seeks to increase guardianship in gunfire hotspots.
            Finally, we purposely intend to create some overlap between places receiving a reactive and problem-solving approach. This will allow us to address whether the strategies may complement each other. The project will produce multiple deliverables, including a process and impact evaluation of the promising strategies.

Date Created: December 16, 2021