Developing Strategies to Prevent Youth from Obtaining Illegal Firearms

Emerging Leader Fellow: Abigail Thibeault, 2015-2016

The Problem:

Philadelphia has one of the highest homicide rates among the ten largest cities in America.  Nearly 80% of these deaths result from gun violence where the offender was under the age of 18 or had a prior criminal or mental health history.  Unfortunately, in many neighborhoods, conventional wisdom holds that youth can get a gun faster than a job.  Juvenile court records also indicate the relative ease of accessing guns.  Without resources, the police, attorneys, judges and probation officers have not been able to determine why and how youth obtain illegal firearms in order to sufficiently respond to this epidemic.

The Approach:

Abigail and CeaseFire PA believe that they can help curb access to guns by researching the sources that put them into the hands of youth, and by analyzing patterns of behavior and pathways of transactions.  Abigail will lead this quantitative and qualitative research project by: 1) reviewing juvenile court records; 2) interviewing key stakeholders such as juvenile offenders and non-offenders, law enforcement, probation officers, attorneys and judges; and 3) analyzing the results to develop and disseminate a report with policy recommendations and prevention strategies. Abigail will coordinate with Stoneleigh Fellow Richard Greenwald to target the research to the 22nd Police District.  She has also obtained the interest and support of Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel, who will review and potentially use her findings. In addition, the report will be shared with attorneys and judges, and other key stakeholders at relevant local, state and national conferences.