While the cities below are located hundreds of miles from each other, they all have something in common: Their urban communities are afflicted with poverty and a lack of employment opportunities. Those with criminal records face even steeper obstacles.
“We’ve known for a long time that one of the main reasons that people continue to cycle back into prison and crime is because it’s extremely difficult for an offender to get a job,” said Barry Krisbergis, a criminologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “And they’re often barred from various forms of financial support.”
As a result, the drug trade and gun violence in these neighborhoods have been raging for years.
The programs below treat these issues as an epidemic: “an outbreak of disease that spreads quickly and affects many individuals at the same time,” according to Merriam-Webster. Rather than rely on standard policing and prison terms to alleviate the issue, these programs apply strategies that focus on the causes of gun violence.
Richmond, Calif. – Richmond’s Office of Neighborhood Safety :
In 2007, Richmond was the ninth most dangerous city in the United States, with 47 homicides, the highest per-capita homicide rate in California. When DeVone Boggan became the director of the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS), an Oakland-based nonprofit, that year, he came up with a novel idea to stop the violence: find young adults with a criminal history and convince them not to commit gun crimes. In addition to building relationships with these high-risk youths, ONS offered them $1,000 per month in cash if they would go 18 months without committing a gun crime and demonstrate an effort to reform themselves. The program also pushes for longterm success by connecting members with job opportunities, helping those who might be ineligible for jobs due to their records.
“Basically, their fundamental philosophy, which is to rely more on delivering incentives for good behavior rather than punishment, is what criminologists and psychologist have said, for a long time,” said Krisbergis, who advised Boggan. “It’s much smarter way to go.”
Last year, Richmond recorded 11 criminal homicides, its lowest number since 1971.
Boston, Mass. – StreetSafe Boston:
Gun violence has been an ongoing problem in Boston. A 2010 Harvard study revealed that just 1 percent of Boston residents aged 15-24 were responsible for approximately half of the city’s shootings. The same study also showed that 70 percent of the shootings over a three-decade period occurred in areas covering just 5 percent of the city.
Founded in 2008, StreetSafe employs street workers to build relationships with Boston’s active gangs. The organization has two strategies: street-level intervention that encourages at-risk individuals to resolve conflicts, and providing social services to youth gang members in need.
The program was supposed to end last New Year’s Eve because of a lack of resources. However, StreetSafe has now merged with Boston Centers for Youth & Families — another organization focused on providing services for the youth — and will receive $3.1 million in funding from the Boston Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to philanthropy efforts in the city, to continue for at least three more years.
Chicago, Ill. – Chicago CURE Violence:
CURE Violence is one of the country’s more famous anti-gun violence programs. The organization, formerly called CeaseFire, was the focus of the 2011 documentary “The Interrupters.” CURE Violence is known for its innovative approach to gun violence: treating it as a disease.
The organization uses outreach workers to “cure” violence by identifying individuals who are deemed most likely to engage in gun violence — whether it’s through prior criminal records or reputation. The workers help mediate conflict between gangs and connect high-risk youths to a variety of services.
One of the most important aspects of CURE Violence’s program is its employment of former gang members and criminals to reach out to the youth. In the young people’s eyes, the street workers’ former lifestyle makes them more credible.
“The fact that they’d reach out and call one of the violence workers and say, ‘Look man, you gotta get over here or I’m going to knock this brother out,’ or whatever the case may be,” said Marcus McAllister, National Trainer for Cure Violence. “To me, that’s a heck of a change because that’s something that they’re not used to doing.”
Although there have been some spikes, homicide numbers have drastically decreased since CURE Violence’s implementation in 2000. There were 407 homicides in Chicago in 2014, a slight drop from he previous year. However, there’s been a 14 percent increase in shootings since 2013, according to the Chicago Police Department’s stats.
CURE Violence remains one of the most influential models when it comes to treating gun violence. It has been implemented in various cities, including New York, with the S.O.S. (Save Our Streets) organizations.
|Names||Founding Year’s Homicide Totals||2014’s Homicide Totals|
|Office of Neighborhood Safety (2007)||47||11|
|StreetSafe Boston (2008)||62||52|
|CURE Violence Chicago (2000)||627||407|
Chicago, Ill. – Project Safe Neighborhoods: Like CURE Violence, Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) focuses on gun violence and gang activity. The key difference between the two is that Project Safe Neighborhoods works with law enforcement; CURE Violence tends not to collaborate with the police because it doesn’t want to risk its rapport with the youth.
PSN and federal, state and local law enforcement work together in a manner that’s similar to StreetSafe Boston: Focusing on the gun offenders and the violence-heavy areas. Instead of relying on street workers, PSN uses offender notification meetings. Police representatives and ex-criminal offenders address offenders with a history of gun activity and stress the severe repercussions of continued criminal acts. The method hinges on the rational choice criminology: potential criminals won’t commit crimes if they’re fully aware of the harsh legal risks.
PSN isn’t as popular as CURE Violence, but PSN Forum Coordinator Michael Fleury notes that it is effective.
“Individuals who have attended the Project Safe Neighborhood forums have been shown by research to be less likely to rescind with a firearm,” Fleury said. “It’s an impact that is kind of hard to see, because it’s on an individual basis.”
Jacksonville, Fla. – Operation PIE: Announced on May 5, Operation PIE (Prevention, Intervention, Enforcement) works as a faith-based extension of Jacksonville’s Operation CeaseFire, which was founded last year. The new initiative is a collaboration between law enforcement and local pastors.
In hopes of positively influencing potential criminals, Operation PIE targets children aged 10-15 by focusing on domestic issues, like family dysfunction and unemployment. To do so, send police officers on house visits and patrols to build a relationship with families and residents.
“Will every young person change? No. Will every family invite us in? No,” said Bishop John Guns of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in a press conference. “But I bet you there’s going to be a whole lot more who invite us in than tell us don’t come.”
The officers have been proactive so far. They’ve made contact with over 1,500 kids, according to the Jacksonville Sun Times.