Strategic Evolution in a Police Gang Violence Unit

John A. McReynolds, Northeastern University

The paper is a case study that explores the response of the Boston Police Department to gang violence and juvenile homicide in the years 1990-1994, years of historically high rates of reported violent crime in the United States, particularly among juveniles. The paper focuses on the operation of the Anti Gang Violence Unit (AGVU), which the department formed in 1990 and gave primary responsibility for controlling juvenile and gang-related violent crime. The paper examines the approaches the AGVU took toward the control of violent juvenile crime, and pays particular attention to the evolution of the unit's strategic policies. Early in the period, the unit's strategic policy was intended to produce incapacitation through such traditional methods of enforcement as zero tolerance policies, saturation patrolling, and sweeps. While the goal during the entire period remained oriented toward arrests, later in the period strategic implementation expanded to include sophisticated intelligence gathering, intelligence exchange, and cooperation with such non-police persons and entities as probation officers, street-workers, and coalitions of clergy. The paper's narrative is presented through media accounts, public records, and interviews with participants. The paper is oriented theoretically within the emerging literature examining the rationalization of police services.

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Updated 05/20/2006