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Attention Felons: Evaluating Project Safe Neighborhoods in Chicago


  • The authors thank the members of Chicago's PSN taskforce for all their assistance these past several years. Data were provided by the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois Department of Corrections. The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and in no way reflect those of the PSN taskforce members, the City of Chicago, the Chicago Police Department, the Illinois Department of Corrections, or the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

*Andrew V. Papachristos, Department of Sociology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003-9277; email: Papachristos is Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts; Meares is Professor of Law at Yale Law School; Fagan is Professor of Law and Public Health at Columbia Law School.


This research uses a quasi-experimental design to evaluate the impact of Project Safe Neighborhood (PSN) initiatives on neighborhood-level crime rates in Chicago. Four interventions are analyzed: (1) increased federal prosecutions for convicted felons carrying or using guns, (2) the length of sentences associated with federal prosecutions, (3) supply-side firearm policing activities, and (4) social marketing of deterrence and social norms messages through justice-style offender notification meetings. Using individual growth curve models and propensity scores to adjust for nonrandom group assignment of neighborhoods, our findings suggest that several PSN interventions are associated with greater declines of homicide in the treatment neighborhoods compared to the control neighborhoods. The largest effect is associated with the offender notification meetings that stress individual deterrence, normative change in offender behavior, and increasing views on legitimacy and procedural justice. Possible competing hypotheses and directions for individual-level analysis are also discussed.