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Kansas City Gun Experiment

Ages 5-35

Rating: Level 2


The Kansas City Gun Experiment is based on the hypothesis that gun seizures and gun crime are inversely related. In other words, as gun seizures increase, gun crime decreases. To test this hypothesis the Kansas City (Mo.) Police Department directed extra patrol attention on gun crime “hot spots” in a target beat for 29 weeks during 1992–93 (July 7 to Jan. 27). The officers involved in the experiment worked overtime to concentrate solely on gun detection through proactive patrol and were not required to respond to calls for service. Specific techniques employed by officers to find guns varied and included Terry v. Ohio safety frisks associated with car stops for traffic violations. The strategy was designed to identify illegal weapon owners and to serve high-risk youths.


The University of Maryland implemented a pretest–posttest, quasi-experimental design to evaluate the strategy. The evaluators measured both police activity and crime using a time-series analysis of the 52 weeks before and after initiation of the program in a target beat and a comparison beat. The target beat was an 8-block by 10-block area with a 1991 homicide rate of 20 times the national average. The population was almost entirely nonwhite. The rate of homeownership was very high (more than two thirds), but the property values were extremely low. The comparison area was similar to the target beat in many ways, especially in that both beats had significant volumes of violent crime. Specifically, the comparison area was almost identical to the target area in drive-by shootings. However, the control beat had almost twice as much population, three times as much land area, and higher housing prices than the target beat. The chosen comparison beat was not allotted funds for extra patrol time in the area, but police activities were not limited.


The major findings from the evaluation include

  • Gun seizures by police in the target area increased by more than 65 percent.
  • Gun crimes declined in the target area by 49 percent.
  • Neither gun crimes nor guns seized changed significantly in the comparison beat.
  • There was no measurable displacement of gun crimes in surrounding beats.
  • Homicides showed a statistically significant reduction in the targeted area but not in the comparison area.
  • Only gun crimes were affected by the directed patrols, with no changes in the number of calls for service or in the total number of violent or nonviolent crime reports.
  • Crimes involving firearms gradually increased again for 5 months upon program completion, but after the program resumed in July 1993, gun crimes declined in the target area while they rose in the comparison area.

A follow-up study investigating whether the methods of the Kansas City Gun Experiment were acceptable to the community found that community members were aware of the enhanced policing, that proactive police methods generally received strong support, and that residents perceived an improvement in the quality of life in the experimental neighborhood. It appears that police were not discriminatory or aggressive toward citizens they stopped, nor did their efforts seem to increase community tension. These findings support the notion that residents of communities suffering from high rates of gun crime welcome intensive police efforts against guns. However, this study was limited in that it did not interview persons stopped by police.

Risk Factors


  • Availability of firearms
  • Community crime/High crime neighborhood
  • Low community attachment
  • Social and physical disorder/Disorganized neighborhood

Protective Factors


  • Safe environment / Low neighborhood crime


  • NIJ: What Works


Shaw, James W. 1995. “Community Policing Against Guns: Public Opinion of the Kansas City Gun Experiment.” Justice Quarterly 12(4):695–710.

Sherman, Lawrence W., and Dennis P. Rogan. 1995. “Effects of Gun Seizures on Gun Violence: ‘Hot Spots’ Patrol in Kansas City.” Justice Quarterly 12(4):673–93.

Sherman, Lawrence W., James W. Shaw, and Dennis P. Rogan. 1995. The Kansas City Gun Experiment: Research in Brief. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.


Lawrence Sherman
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Phone: (215) 746-6445