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Richmond Comprehensive Homicide Initiative

Ages 12-30

Rating: Level 2


The Richmond (Calif.) Comprehensive Homicide Initiative is a problem-oriented policing program composed of a broad collection of enforcement and nonenforcement strategies designed to reduce homicide. The initiative departed from the traditional police definition of homicide as a unique offense in which the appropriate police role is largely limited to after-the-fact investigation, instead recognizing that homicide prevention is a critical police responsibility that can best be accomplished by identifying the paths that frequently lead to homicide and closing them by intervening early. With this new definition in mind, the initiative members developed a plan concentrated on specific problem areas, including targeting domestic violence, enhancing investigative capabilities, intervening in the lives of at-risk youths, and targeting outdoor- gun-, drug-, and gang-related violence. Select components of the initiative are described below:

Nonenforcement strategies, which emphasize youth and prevention:

  • Collaborating with the community, the Richmond Public Works Department, and the Housing Authority in a crime-reduction planning process emphasizing aesthetics and community pride
  • Using the Richmond Police Athletic League Computer Center to provide job skills training to Richmond youths and adults
  • Collaborating with the Richmond public schools to enlist officers in an adopt-an-elementary-school program and to develop a middle school mentoring program involving Drug Abuse Resistance Education (or D.A.R.E.) officers and high school students
  • Collaborating with the Contra Costa County Probation Department to develop a probation-officer-on-campus program for high schools
  • Collaborating with the juvenile justice system to develop a youth court program
  • Collaborating with the Battered Women’s Alternatives and the Rape Crisis Coalition to support programs and practices to reduce domestic violence

Traditional investigative and enforcement functions:

  • Developing an intensified team approach to obtain information on high-profile homicides
  • Obtaining FBI assistance in reviewing old, unsolved (“cold”) homicide cases
  • Obtaining the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, and the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement in targeting violence-prone members of the drug culture
  • Assigning an evidence specialist to the Richmond Police Department’s detective bureau
  • Improving information sharing and technology


The Comprehensive Homicide Initiative was evaluated in three ways. The first looked at victim-, offender-, and incident-related characteristics of all homicides in Richmond from 1985 to 1998. Data was obtained from Richmond Police Department homicide reports and interviews with detectives from homicide and gang units. The second was a quasi-experimental design using an interrupted time series analysis to determine if the problem-oriented policing philosophy caused changes in frequency of homicides in Richmond. The third compared the nature and frequency of homicides in Richmond with other California cities with populations of 75,000 or more (n=75).


During the evaluation performed on the Comprehensive Homicide Initiative as a whole, data was grouped into three periods according to homicide patterns: 1985–89 was a period of stability; 1990–94 was a period of great increases; 1995–98 was the “posttreatment” phase after the initiative was implemented. The researchers found that in Richmond the rates of homicides decreased by more than 1 homicide per month after the initiative. The changes occurred particularly in the areas targeted by the new problem-oriented policing strategy. In comparison with the other cities in California with a population over 75,000, this drop was not unique to Richmond but was rare. The other cities with similar reductions also work off of a problem-oriented policing philosophy. The evaluation showed a decrease in nonlethal violent crime in Richmond after 1994 as well.

Risk Factors


  • Early onset of aggression and/or violence
  • Gun possession/Illegal gun ownership and/or carrying
  • Victimization and exposure to violence


  • Availability of firearms
  • Community crime/High crime neighborhood
  • Economic deprivation/Poverty/Residence in a disadvantaged neighborhood
  • Social and physical disorder/Disorganized neighborhood


  • Association with delinquent and/or aggressive peers
  • Gang involvement/Gang membership

Protective Factors


  • Perception of social support from adults and peers


  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults


  • Clear social norms / Policies with sanctions for violations and rewards for compliance
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Safe environment / Low neighborhood crime


  • Involvement with positive peer group activities


White, Michael D., James J. Fyfe, Suzanne P. Campbell, and John S. Goldkamp. 1997. Strategies for Reducing Homicide: The Comprehensive Homicide Initiative in Richmond, California. Bureau of Justice Assistance.

———. 2003. “The Police Role in Preventing Homicide: Considering the Impact of Problem-Oriented Policing on the Prevalence of Murder.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 40(2):194–225.


Lt. Mark Gagan
Richmond Police Department
412 27th Street
Richmond, CA 94804
Phone: (510) 620-6655
Web site: