The current issue of the New Yorker (June 22, 2009) features an article by John Seabrook: Don't Shoot. A radical remedy for gang violence.
The article describes the successful efforts led by David Kennedy, a professor from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice whose work led to sharp declines in violence, including homicides, in Cincinnati; Providence, Rhode Island; and High Point, North Carolina, where it was most successfully used to deter public drug dealing.
From the abstract of the article (full article only available online to New Yorker subscribers):
...the police would identify gang members who were on parole or probation and compel them to attend a meeting. There, the cops would demand that the shootings end, and promise that, if they did not, the punishment would be swift and severe and target the entire gang. The city would also make life coaching and job counseling available to those who wanted out of the thug life. The police were initially skeptical about the program, but in 2007, they began implementing Ceasefire with a team that included social workers and academics. Describes how information about gang activity was gathered and organized by the team.
Kennedy's program starts with the assumption that law enforcement alone cannot thwart gang activity. It is based in part on theories of community policing developed by many, including University of Wisconsin Professor Herman Goldstein and Madison Police Chief David C. Couper.
The program, Ceasefire, is predicated on the assumption that an attack on gang violence must be swift and effective with a clear message sent to members that there will be consequences, and that a social service component in the program will provide openings into family services, job training, and other basic links to transportion, child care and health services.
The work began when Kennedy first received a grant to develop the program in 1994.
The city of Madison Neighborhood Resource Teams (NRT) were already in existence in 1992. Actually the first teams were organized in 1990. Think about it - almost twenty years ago.
For those interested in learning more about how the now moribund NRT might be used, here are some links to posts I wrote over the years:
- How to Improve the Prospects for Madison and Milwaukee September 21, 2007
- Solving Milwaukee's Gang Problem June 2, 2006
- Madison's State Street - Wasting Over $3 Million a Year December 15, 2008
When the NRT's were formed, they provided the coordination of law enforcement and social services. The Blue Blanket was formed at the same time as the concentrated law enforcement element needed to provide a safe and healthy community.
Both programs still exist today. Neither is as effective in tackling gang-related drug trafficking and the accompanying violence as they might be if the NRT existed as orignally designed.
Now the Madison NRT's exist in name only.
In 2000 their effectiveness was diluted as the teams were reworked citywide. This of course defeated the entire concept and purpose of the teams - targeting the most violent areas. Subsequent restructuring of the teams did nothing to return them to their original mission and effectiveness.
In the fall of 2000, Mayor Susan J. M. Bauman created an initiative to make the benefits of these cross-functional teams available to all areas of the City... The Mayor and the Guidance Team worked with NRT members and leaders to help the teams begin to operate in larger geographical areas containing approximately 20,000 to 25,000 people. (emphasis added)
The original teams worked in concentrated areas of 800-2000 residents. As the teams languished so did the potential effectiveness of the law enforcement component.
While the rest of the nation watches the wheel reinvented, nothing happens in Madison.
A note about crime data. When inital efforts are made to combat gang crime, there is a drop in reported offenses. Then there may be an increase followed by another drop. The increase is a reflection of effectiveness as trust is built. It does not mean there is actually more crime committed but that more crimes are reported. To examine crime statistics, two comparisons must be made. First, over a period of time - at least a decade; secondly, local rates must be compared to national trends.