The Problem: Firearms are the second leading cause of injury and deaths in the United States, accounting for 30,896 deaths and 71,417 injuries in 2006. More than 80 percent of teen homicides and almost half of teen suicides involved a gun in 2005. CDC: WISQUARS. More than half of all homicides involve a gun.U.S. Department of Justice: Crime Statistics.
The Law: Much of the burden of gun violence and accidental gun injuries falls upon localities. As a result, localities have been at the vanguard of efforts to find new legal approaches to reducing the harms of unsafe gun practices. Some of these strategies – like local bans on gun possession and efforts to regulate gun retailers under public nuisance laws – have been overturned by courts. As a result, few localities in the United States currently have the authority to pass gun control legislation that address gun safety. Localities do, however, have significant latitude in how they enforce existing gun control laws. Law enforcement strategies for reducing the illegal possession of guns include directed patrols aimed at uncovering and deterring illegal gun possession in specific high risk areas.
The Evidence: Koper and Mayo-Wilson systematically reviewed 4 studies that assessed the impact of directed patrol law enforcement strategies for decreasing gun-related crimes. Koper & Mayo-Wilson. Police crackdowns on illegal gun carrying: a systematic review of their impact on gun crime. Journal of Experimental Criminology 2006; 2:227-261. The four studies reported on a total of 7 nonrandomized tests. In 6 of the tests, directed patrols were associated with reductions in firearm crimes. Notwithstanding the small number of studies and limited study designs, the authors interpreted the review findings as evidence that directed patrols reduced gun crime in high-crime areas.
The Bottom Line: According the authors of a peer-reviewed systematic review, there is strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of directed patrols as an intervention aimed at reducing gun-related crime in high risk areas.