A Real Solution to Gun-Related Violence? Programs Targeting ‘Key Offenders’ Show Promise

Gun control is the least effective means of reducing firearm-related violence in metropolitan areas. Its ineffectiveness stems from the fact that, as Democrat and gun owner Jeremey Wang pointed out in a recent editorial, attempting to restrict access to guns fails to address the root causes of inner-city violence.

But new programs that focus on identifying potential shooters and intervening before they commit a crime have proven to be remarkably effective. The programs take advantage of the fact that an extremely small percentage of a city’s population is responsible for much of the firearm-related violence.

One of the best examples comes from Richmond, California, where the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS) has managed since 2007 to reduce firearm-related homicides by 76 percent and firearm-related assaults by 66 percent.

In Richmond, police found that just 28 people committed 70 percent of gun-related assaults or homicides in 2009. The Office of Neighborhood Safety reached out to these individuals and offered them the opportunity of a lifetime: join the ONS fellowship program and receive help with education, career development, anger management, parenting, medical health, and spirituality.

Participants would be visited several times a day by outreach workers, develop a “life map,” connect with social services, take trips around California, get connected with community role models, and have the opportunity to apply for internships.

The fellowship lasts 18-24 months. If participants stay in the program the first six months they also receive a $1,000-per-month stipend for the next nine months.

Ultimately, the program is about giving its participants a vision for their lives. “We’re trying to get them to dream, to hope, to go from a place of ‘I don’t give a fuck’ to a place where ‘Maybe I do,’” DeVone Boggan, director of the ONS, told FastCoexist.com. “Because the moment you start to give a damn, you start to make decisions that are healthier about how you handle the conflicts you’re negotiating every day.”

Other cities including Washington, D.C., San Jose, Oakland, and Toledo, Ohio, have adopted Boggan’s model. Baltimore and Gary, Indiana, have plans to do the same.

But the ONS’s rewards-based program isn’t the only model that has proven to be effective. New Orleans recently adopted the Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS), which uses “a data-driven approach to identify key offenders who are responsible for a disproportionate share of serious violence in New Orleans.”

Once police identify these individuals, they take two actions. First, police notify key offenders that they will be subjected to intensified enforcement and prosecution if they continue engaging in violence. Second, like the ONS, police connect these individuals to social services.

The program lowered the citywide firearm-related homicide rate by 17.3 percent since its adoption in 2012, a significant decrease in a city the size of New Orleans. In 2012, group members were involved in 114 murders, 59 percent of the city’s total murders. In 2016, that number was down to 11.

Here’s the bottom line: gun control doesn’t address the root causes of firearm-related violence, so it will never effectively reduce it. These two programs focus on the men and women who commit the crime rather than the tool they use to commit it. If local and state officials really want to reduce firearm-related violence, they’ll start implementing programs that solve the real problems plaguing our nation’s cities.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Dan b December 11, 2016, 11:50 am

    One major solution to gun violence, is require city sperm donors to actually be a real father.
    Go into any major city, all with high gun crime, you will not find a complete family environment, never a father, sometimes another, often a grandmother.
    Not to be political, but gun crime are in liberal/democratic environments. You don’t see this crime in conservative families.

  • Mike Watkins December 10, 2016, 1:35 pm

    Something is wrong here. REALLY wrong.

    Maybe it’s just that the writer of the article does not completely understand what he was told about the intervention programs he is writing about. Or maybe, these programs are just more lib feel-good BS.

    They identify “key offenders” and invite them into this intervention to help them change their lives, goals, attitudes, etc? Yeah??? Instead of locking them up for their crimes?? WTF!

    Or do the programs actually find POTENTIAL key offenders and work with them BEFORE they become actual felons? That would make a lot of sense, but that does not appear to be what the writer is saying.

    It really would be typical of leftie thinking to send social workers to work
    with killers instead of locking them up. But from the way the article is written, I’m not sure.

  • Will Drider December 10, 2016, 1:19 am

    “28 People committing 70% of the gun related assaults.” If that is truely accurate those 28 should have been prosecuted: repeatedly. Maybe the 28 contacts were post conviction, no info. Aside from the personal accountability and potential deterent effect incarceration provides, it costs taxpayers roughly $58 a day per inmate. Much cheaper to provide financial incentive AFTER the have been in the program for several months. And the program is a preventative deterent.

    I do support capital punishment but have no problems with cost effective measures to reduce crimes and victim impact either. The sole problem with the death penalty is the decades of appeals that delay the Courts orders. The Appeal process for death sentences should be expedited and limit Appeals to 90 days to file, schedule in 30 days at each level of Appeal. Those Appeals that Fail should ride the lightning within two years.

  • sionn December 9, 2016, 1:18 pm

    while i am hopeful for the success of this kind of positive program, i am wondering about the efficacy of offering this expensive coddling of “key offenders”. i interpret “key offenders” as those who have a known history of violence. what about punishment for those violent crimes they have already committed? or are these ignored in the hopes of changing future behavior?

  • Larry Sakanashi December 9, 2016, 9:39 am

    I really hope the targeting of “key offenders” works. But if doesn’t, I propose an alternative to capital punishment by either death or life imprisonment: harvest the organs of the person guilty of a capital crime. At least the guilty party can make some positive compensation to society instead of having us taxpayers pay for either an execution or a life sentence (with nothing to show for the expense). Those prisoners on death row should be entered into a nationwide organ donation registry so that people in need of transplant surgery can have their life saving medical operations. I am not a Nazi. Our society needs to become much more pragmatic with criminals.

  • john creveling December 9, 2016, 9:37 am

    While I applaud the programs recognizing the root problem is not guns but the people who use them something about giving someone $1000 a month for doing what they should do in the first place rubs me the wrong way.

    • DIYinSTL December 9, 2016, 10:30 am

      It rubs me the wrong way too but if you can spend $50k to keep (for example, I’ve no idea what the success rate is) 1 person out of 3 out of the CJ system, it would save hundreds of thousands, perhaps over $1M in legal fees and incarceration costs. That’s a pretty good return on investment and I’d support it. The trick is to keep if from becoming a gravy train for cities and other exploiters.

  • DRAINO December 9, 2016, 7:10 am

    Definitely bring back capital punishment!! However, these programs appear to show promise. Let’s continue them as well. But there needs to be something that people fear…..capital punishment does the trick. You don’t hear too many stories about death row convicts who DON’t show signs of fear as they walk the green mile. Enforce it more and more will be afraid. It’s a deterrent…..like nukes or military strength. I also agree with helping people make good decisions.

    • joe December 9, 2016, 8:47 am

      Capital punishment is not something I trust our government with. Why would you?

      • perlcat December 9, 2016, 1:53 pm

        Capital punishment deals well with recidivism; there’s no way they can re-offend. However, in terms of dollars and cents, we spend an atrocious amount of money on it, and if we can keep them from committing the crime in the first place, it may be a better option. I don’t trust governments ability to administer social services — too often it turns into a cash dispenser. However, if handled through the police who have to deal with the consequences, a program like this shows promise. (Your average run-of-the-mill bureaucrat is not motivated to fix social problems. We reward them with cash, and promotions if the problem becomes worse. Naturally, they tell you they’re performing a public service all the time they’re out there making the problem worse.)

      • DRAINO December 10, 2016, 8:40 am

        Ok….allow me to modify my statement. ALL STATES should have available, AND USE, capital punishment. Like GA…..we are on number 10 for this year so far…….executions that is. And forget this notion of spending so much money on it. They weren’t worried about keeping things humane when they committed a capital crime. Rope is cheap, it can be re-used. 22 bullets are coming back down in price. It doesn’t have to be that difficult.
        But as I said, if there is a program that works and helps people make better decisions……I’m all for it. And I agree with perlcat….our govt is not capable of administering a social service program correctly and/or fairly. Not sure exactly the best way to administer it, but I think his idea is a start in the right direction.

  • SuperG December 8, 2016, 10:23 am

    I say modify the 8th Amendment to make it not cruel and unusual punishment to execute career criminals and then lets get rid of them.

    • Dale Bailey December 9, 2016, 9:38 pm

      Why change the Eighth Amendment ? Criminal Murder is a cruel rape and child molestation are all cruel and not nearly as unusual as they should be ; a judge not a line in the Constitution called the death sentence cruel and unusual . Lawyers getting rich made it expensive . By the way when did you last hear of a civilian judge who was not a lawyer ? Lawyers take care of their own .

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