Choosing Representatives to Deliver the Message in a Group Violence Intervention
Deterrence theory holds that crime is prevented when the perceived risk of committing the crime is greater than the perceived benefits. Traditionally, deterrence efforts in criminal justice sought to alter the certainty, swiftness, and severity of punishment as the mechanisms to alter offenders’ behavior. The GVI model of focused deterrence is somewhat different. A major component of GVI is the use of criminal justice practitioners to deliver a credible message about the potential consequences those agents will bring to bear on offenders and those with whom they associate. The prospect of such enforcement attention presumably prompts group members to exert informal social pressure on their associates to refrain from gun violence, thereby altering the group dynamics in socially beneficial ways. While rooted in deterrence, GVI does not necessarily seek to change the severity of punishment (such as through increased sentencing) or even to change the probability of being caught (such as through increased police surveillance). Such traditional responses are often ineffective, partly because most people (offenders included) are ignorant of changes in legal sanctions (Kennedy, 1997), and the reality is that law enforcement cannot capture all criminal activity (so the probability of being caught for any one criminal act is often very low, even with increased police resources focused on one person). GVI promises immediate (swift) and credible group-wide consequences for homicides and/or shootings. As such, the oft used label of “focused deterrence” is a misnomer of the mechanisms through which the intervention reduces subsequent violence (Kennedy, 2019).