We all know or at least have heard about the problems that plague the “inner city negro”. From sunrise to sunset, news seekers get on-site correspondence across various media about the plight of poor folks. Those unprivileged, unfortunate bastards who live on or beneath the margins and the pits they attempt to exist in, including drugs, crime, poverty, and consistent lacking in education and resources.
All we seem to generate are problems and complications in constant barrages; where they start, how they occur, and how they fester. Normally after that dose of media medicine, you’ll hear about the affect it has on whichever community is presented and then the country overall. This cyclical process occurs from 5 a.m. with the first news cast of the day, pauses after 11 p.m., only to restart the very next morning. The shits a bottomless crater and an endless operation and far too often we aren’t given viable, sustainable resolutions on how to improve our societal ills.
In Norfolk ,California, the Office of Neighborhood Safety, has been providing one particular solution for gun violence since 2009: pay people to not kill other people. Dig this, the shit’s been working brilliantly.
Naturally, opposition and critics deem this as rewarding criminals for NOT being criminals but the circumstances and results are not so black and white.
Let me provide a bit of context.
Devone Boggan, Program Director of the ONS was hired by the city of Norfolk in 2007 after gun violence had reached a seemingly insurmountable level. Shit was so out of control in this metro of only 100,000 that the National Guard was considered as an option to cool shootings and murders that occurred verging on a daily basis.
It wasn’t until a meeting with city officials and law enforcement where Boggan learned that 70% of the 45 homicides by gun violence and hundreds of firearm assaults were committed by a mere handful of people. 17 to be exact.
Boggan thought to himself:
“Almost every day someone was being shot …I mean it was literally popping. It was on fire, no question about that…. if we can wrap our arms around that and just engage the 17 people in a different way, that could have a significant impact on the narrative of what’s really going on in the city of Richmond.”
Although he didn’t know exactly how yet, he had what many of us don’t; a possible solution.
He began implementing his plan in the streets of Norfolk, where the problems of the community manifest. His idea was to establish a mentorship program that reaches out to those most likely to commit gun violence. After some initial refusals, he was able to enlist the service of 20 troubled young men to his crusade and with the help from private donors, Operation Peacemaker was created.
Boggan began to study and embrace other programs executed in other cities across the U.S that showed positive outcomes, in particular one established by David Kennedy, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
Kennedy’s framework consists of targeting individuals who are considered the most violent by law enforcement and brings them in for “Call Ins”, which are composed of group conversations and personal sessions. Mostly those invited are parolees who MUST attend or face warnings and eventually stiff consequences.
Boggan noticed that great deal of resentment can build when prison is used as a threat on a parolee’s freedom, which certainly affects morale and general positivity. Thus, he decided to make slight changes in the paradigm. His idea was to take the hierarchy of law enforcement out of the equation completely and only focus on those who are on a direct collision course with correctional facilities. He then narrowed in on teens and young adults who’ve been known to engage in gun violence and in his words,”shower these youth with positivity, not threats of prison”.
“I want us to hunt ‘em like they hunt, and I want us to hunt for information…We have better information than the police.”
“It’s the only agency where you’re required to have a criminal background to be an employee”-Devone Boggan
“White folks like to pat black folks on the head, give ‘em a few bucks, and think that their problems will go away. It never happens.” -Councilman Corky Boozé