St. Louis Consent to Search Program - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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St. Louis Consent to Search Program

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  1. St. Louis Consent to Search Program Evaluating Elusive Policing Programs

  2. Crime & Violence • Reached peak levels 1993 • Flash point for media attention was increased youth firearm violence • St. Louis homicide rate reached 70 per 100,000 in 1991 (97% involved guns) • Ranked in top 5 of large cities throughout the 1990s • Homicide rate for black males • Ages 15 – 19 reached 380 per 100,000 • Ages 20 – 24 reached 600 per 100,000

  3. Response to Violence • Early 1990s Violent Crimes Task Force was formed • Homicide Unit was beefed up with additional personnel • Massive gun buyback ensued in 1991 • Netted more than 7500 guns • Second buyback in 1994 • Brought in 1200 guns

  4. Impact? • No impact of either gun buyback on rates of firearm violence • But, the buybacks focused public attention on firearm violence • Firearm Suppression Program emerged • Innovative program

  5. FSP • 3 components • 1. tracing the serial numbers of confiscated firearms • 2. reviewing sheriff’s department records for firearm transactions to determine patterns of ‘straw’ purchases • Using consent searches to confiscate guns illegally possessed by juveniles

  6. Consent to Search • Evaluation focused on last of 3 components • FSP operated initially by department’s Mobile Reserve Unit • FSP emerged from a neighborhood meeting where a resident informed Mobile Reserve officer about a house where the kids played with guns while adults were away • This meeting led to a consent to search program

  7. Program • Implemented in 1993 • Officers gained parental consent to search the home for guns • Officers provided referrals to counseling services • No prosecution for parents if illegal gun found • Case initiated by citizen request for service, reports from other police units or info from other investigations

  8. Goals • Citizen cooperation • St. Louis has historically had high levels of distrust between black community and police • 98% of citizens consented to searches of their premises • Target locations likely to yield guns • Confiscate weapons • Decrease homicide rates

  9. Searches • 1994 • Mobile Reserve Unit conducted between 5 and 30 searches each night • Found guns in about 50% of searched homes • Averaged 3 guns seized per household • 402 guns netted • Gun confiscation was more than half of what traditional methods had netted • 1995 • 104 guns seized

  10. Process Evaluation • Identify attributes of individuals, program components, and community characteristics associated with • A high level of citizen compliance with police requests to search • A high ratio of consensual compliance with coerced compliance • A high ratio of firearm confiscations to searches

  11. Outcome Evaluation • 3 objectives • To determine whether the program results in a net reduction in firearm possession by young people • To determine whether the confiscation of guns threatens the personal security of young people • To measure the program’s influence on the level of community safety

  12. Evaluation Reality • 1995 Chief of St. Louis PD stepped down to run for mayor • He had been supportive of the program • But he had embattled relationship with existing mayor • New chief takes over • Makes transfers and consolidations across units • Lt. and Sgt. Who proposed the FSP transferred out of the unit

  13. More Reality • New Lt. of Mobile Reserve Unit suspended the FSP due to lack of success • No records kept for second, third, and fourth quarters of 1995 • Despite the fact that the FSP wasn’t suspended until 1996 • Evaluation was NIJ funded…what to do, what to do…?

  14. Phase Two • FSP reinstated • Less than whole hearted support from Mobile Reserve Unit • No training provided to officers • No Sgt. Accompanied officers on searches • Many officers weren’t aware of program • Pledge of no prosecution removed • 1997 less than 5% of number of consent searches completed as compared to 1994 numbers

  15. Phase Two Yields • Consent searches yielded about 31 firearms, 8% of the 1994 total • Traditional gun confiscation techniques employed by Mobile Reserve Unit netted 468 guns, only 15% more than the consent searches had netted in 1994 • 1997 no consent searches completed at home of a juvenile • ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality of officers

  16. Phase Three • Program again resurfaces in late 1998 • Spurred by US Attorney for Eastern Missouri • Funds now available to pay overtime specifically for conducting searches • Local Law Enforcement Block Grant program • Pressure kept on police to ‘do something’ abut youth gun violence • Housed in Intelligence Unit • Can attend daily briefings

  17. Officer Views • Training provided • Efforts documented • Officers believed juveniles could obtain gun easily despite any confiscation efforts • Officers believed only modest crime reduction would result • Gun removal efforts combined with other community based interventions

  18. AACID • African-American Churches in Dialogue • Churches the only community institutions left • Ministers promised to provide referrals, follow-ups • BUT…this never happened

  19. Evaluation of Phase Three • 210 consent searches conducted between December 1998 and August 1999 • 51% of search targets came from review of police files • 27% came from Gang Unit • 18% came from residences where drug violations gleaned from police reports • Officers more concerned with symbolic meaning underlying program than decreasing crime