Sunday, December 5

‘A Slap’: Warnings of Rising Crime Ignore Years of Work by Local Organizers | US crime


The last time homicide rates rose in Tinisch Hollins’ hometown of San Francisco, he had few places to turn for support other than the police.

Homicide rates in the city hit triple digits in the mid-2000s. And at the time, Hollins said, resources for community organizers like her who advocated for crime survivors were slim.

“We were talking about 15-year-olds who moved from bicycles. So when you reach that level of desperation, the police are the most accessible, ”recalled Hollins, who lost two brothers to gun violence.

However, unlike decades before, the San Francisco Bay Area today has several violence prevention programs and services for crime victims that operate outside of law enforcement, Hollins said. Hollins is now the executive director of the Californians for Safety and Justice, an advocacy group.

“We had not funded violence prevention programs like we do now. We had to fight and organize ourselves for that, ”he added.

With cities in the United States seeing significant increases in homicides this year, police departments and some politicians have pointed to criminal justice reforms, low morale in police departments, and officer resignations to explain the increase. Pressures to remove funding from police departments along with increased gun sales have led to anarchy, they argue, and cities should beef up police budgets and hire more officers to combat violence.

This analysis does not fully explain the current dynamics of the increase in violence. It does not take into account the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable communities and the disruption caused by blocking violence prevention strategies. In addition, the research has shown that cities that increased police budgets were just as likely to see an increase in murders as cities that reduced them.

Julian Balderama, a neighborhood change associate, center, during a meeting at Advance Peace's Stockton office.
Julian Balderama, a neighborhood change associate, center, during a meeting at Advance Peace’s Stockton office. Photograph: Jason Henry / The Guardian

While Democrats and Republicans invoke the murder of black and brown people to present their political arguments, organizers in the hardest-hit communities say their own voices and solutions are not being heard. Relying on arrests and prosecutions to reduce violent crime has helped fuel mass incarceration and led to the overrepresentation of Black and Latino people in the nation’s prisons and jails, organizers say, destabilizing many families who they are already neglected and contributes to the cycle of gun violence in these communities. And the emphasis on arrests ignores the progress grassroots groups have made in preventing violence and advocating for victims in recent years, efforts that have been shown to save lives.

“It is frustrating that this conversation is being tapped and used to become a political conversation rather than one about the disparities that are now worse,” Hollins said. “It is also a great slap in the face to the organization that has been made around the violence.”

Recent conversations about crime and violence come at a time when non-police responses to gun violence have gained greater recognition from officials at all levels. Joe Biden allocated $ 5 billion in his infrastructure plan for community-based intervention programs that target the small population of city residents who are involved in the majority of violent incidents.

On June 23, Biden also released a plan to address the rise in gun crime and other public safety concerns that would “crack down on gun dealers” and provide additional funding for cities to hire more officers and pay their overtime. The plan also highlights the need for sustainable support for comprehensive violence prevention programs.

“They step in before it’s too late, these switches,” Biden said. “They lower the temperature, stop the cycle of retaliation and connect people with services. And works. States should invest funds from the American Rescue Plan in such violent crime programs. “

The services and programs that have been shown to help reduce shootings in recent years are diverse and reach people at different points in the gun violence cycle. Some work with the police and some do not. Some try to intervene before the shootings occur. Others send people to help victims and avoid retaliation. Some programs provide financial assistance for burials and connections to counseling.

Officers at the scene of a shooting in Oakland where a 22-year-old man was killed.
Officers at the scene of a shooting in Oakland where a 22-year-old man was killed. Photograph: Dylan Bouscher / AP

Research suggests that many of these programs in California have been very successful in saving lives and public funds. In 2012, the Department of Justice recommended than hospital violence intervention programs such as Youth Alive! Oakland and Project Wraparound in San Francisco should be developed in the US Homicides in Oakland fell by almost half in the six years after launching an innovative police-community partnership called Operation Ceasefire in 2012. AND In Stockton, California, a recent evaluation of Advance Peace, a violence stop program, found that it contributed to a 20% reduction in homicides and assaults with firearms and saved the city between $ 42.3 million and $ 110 million in its first two years of existence while trading less than $ 900,000 during that same period.

In Richmond, the AP is credited with helping reduce gun violence in the city by more than 60%. Despite the spike in shootings in 2020, the decline has been sustained for more than a decade. Since its launch in Richmond in 2010, the program has begun operations in California cities, including Sacramento and Fresno.

The pandemic has presented physical and economic challenges for these programs, exactly when gun violence is on the rise. While crimes such as theft have declined steadily during the pandemic, 2020 will mark the largest jump in homicides in a year since national crime statistics began to be released in the 1960s. Across the United States, homicides increased by roughly one year. 30% in 2020, according to the White House. Preliminary data suggests that the increase has not been evenly distributed across the U.S. Rather, it remains concentrated in the U.S. neglected Black and Latinx communities that have fought violence for decades. These communities have also endured the brunt of the mass imprisonment and police violence, putting residents in an impossible situation to choose between public and personal safety and a possible saturation of the police.

“There are definitely people, even in the black community, who feel completely unsafe and believe that the presence of the police will make them safer,” Hollins said. “Although there is more consensus that policing does not prevent crime, there is still an immediate need to feel safe.”

DeVone Boggan, founder of the successful violence prevention program Advance Peace, was at the White House announcement in June.

While grateful that programs like his are finally being recognized as viable options to decrease gun violence, Boggan remains cautious about the Biden administration’s plan to give more funding to local police departments to hire more officers. “Even among so-called progressives, surveillance seems to be all we know, it’s like a bad habit,” he said. “We have to do a better job, but I think we are doing it.”

Program mentor Sam Vaughn and DeVone Boggan, founder of Advance Peace in Richmond, California.
Program mentor Sam Vaughn and DeVone Boggan, founder of Advance Peace in Richmond, California. Photograph: Balazs Gardi / The Guardian

He also sees his inclusion in the White House as a sign that the tides are turning and hopes that a new group of credible messengers will lend their voices to the conversation. “You are going to have to continually put these conversations in the environment and build an army of voices from these communities that are affected by gun violence, because no one can question whether they know what is real or not,” added Boggan.

“If the active voices on the ground are not amplified, we will continue to run towards familiar faces who have outdated ideas, are out of touch and cannot speak the language of the people involved in the violence. ”Repeated Pastor Carl Day, a North Philadelphia native who runs development programs for at-risk young men and connects them to employment in the city.

“There must be a balance between the people at the table,” Day added. “A little bit of everyone should be there and credible messengers with community connections should lead the way.”

Even amid polarizing conversations and bad faith explanations for the rise in gun crime, Hollins says she sees progress and is hopeful that voices like hers, Day and Boggan are breaking through and having the potential to overcome the fray.

“While there is still a lot of politicization and debate, there is much more space and acceptance that the police have never been the appropriate response; the announcement of Biden’s bill speaks to that,” Hollins said of the inclusion of the president of switches of violence in its violence reduction strategy.

“This is the first time you’ve seen re-entry, victim services, and violence prevention in the White House. That is the direct result of our organizing and improving the stories of the people who have been directly affected. “




www.theguardian.com

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