New York Times: Using cash to ease gun violence in Richmond

Richmond residents awakened by 11 gunshots Friday morning

The New York Times featured an opinion piece this weekend about a controversial — albeit successful — tactic for easing gun violence in Richmond. Authored by Devone L. Boggan, Richmond’s neighborhood safety director, the piece explores Operation Ceasefire, an initiative launched in 2010 to reduce gun crimes by offering cash incentives for peace.

In 2007, the City of Richmond had the dubious distinction of being the ninth most dangerous in America. That year saw a total of 47 homicides. Some neighborhoods saw gunfire daily.

The City created the Office of Neighborhood Safety that year and Boggan, the office’s founding director, was charged with somehow tackling the gun violence epidemic.

Turns out, a small minority of Richmond residents were committing the vast majority of crime. An estimated 70 percent of shootings and homicides in 2009 were caused by just 17 individuals between the ages of 16 and 25.

Boggan and team looked outside Richmond for answers and adapted a Chicago program, “Cure Violence,” to develop “Operation Ceasefire,” a Richmond-based initiative that would combine social services and community outreach with cash incentives.

The controversial program, which recruited the City’s most violent offenders and offered up to $1,000 if participants attended meetings, responded to mentoring and most of all, stayed out of trouble for six months.

The program has been tremendously successful. In its first year, homicides fell to 22 (from 45 in 2009). In the program’s first five years, Richmond has consistently seen the number of homicides halved, with gun violence similarly down.

To read the full opinion piece from the New York Times, click here.