Law Enforcement or Natural Law: A Critical Analysis of Project Exile

Brian A. Monahan, University of Delaware
Christine A. Eith, University of Delaware

ABSTRACT
In February 1997, Richmond, Virginia unveiled Project Exile; hailed as an innovative, efficient, and aggressive interagency approach to combating gun-related violence and homicide. Project Exile combines the resources of several local, state, and federal law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies; targeting violent felons who violate firearm laws and seeking the most stringent penalties possible, often through the use of federal courts. The program has been cited as the preeminent factor in Richmond's declining homicide and gun-related crime rates in recent years and many are applauding it's success. In fact, several cities and states nationwide have implemented similar programs based on the Project Exile model. Others, however, have questioned the effectiveness of Project Exile as a reduction strategy for gun-related violence and homicide and decried the subsequent programs as "cookie cutter" law enforcement policy based on a program whose impact has not been systematically examined. This paper will take a critical approach toward Project Exile; exploring whether the reduction in Richmond's gun-related violence and homicide may be better attributed to the influence of various structural- and community-level variables concurrent to the inception of Project Exile. Specifically, we will explore whether the crime rate in Richmond would have indeed declined under the given temporal social conditions, such as a prosperous economy, low unemployment rates, shifting patterns of drug use, and a changing demographic structure.

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Updated 05/20/2006