Federal and state officials are launching a new program in the hopes of stemming gun violence and gang-related crimes in Connecticut's largest cities.
Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney David Fein and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy joined members of law enforcement, public officials, social service providers, community leaders and researchers in New Haven on Tuesday to launch “Project Longevity."
The program uses a strategy that has shown violence can be reduced dramatically when community members and law enforcement join together to engage with these groups and clearly communicate a community message against violence, a law enforcement message about the consequences of further violence and an offer of help for those who want it.
State, Federal and Local Resources
To accomplish this, law enforcement, social service providers and community members are recruited, assembled and trained to engage in a sustained relationship with violent groups.
“Project Longevity will send a powerful message to those who would commit violent crimes targeting their fellow citizens that such acts will not be tolerated and that help is available for all those who wish to break the cycle of violence and gang activity,” said Attorney General Holder.
Project Longevity is based on a model that has been successful in reducing gun violence in multiple neighborhoods across the country and represents the first time the strategy is being implemented statewide.
“On the state level, I have directed my administration to focus our criminal justice resources on urban violence,” Governor Malloy said. “We agree that no strategy will be effective without the support of the community. This means parents, clergy, neighborhood leaders, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles – everyone working toward one goal.
"We are working to regain the trust of the African American and Latino communities. We need their help. The lives of these young people are too valuable not to act.”
Funded by federal, state and local sources, Project Longevity is being launched initially in New Haven and next in Hartford and Bridgeport.
“After more than a year of hard work and preparation by so many public and private partners, I am pleased to announce Project Longevity, our statewide anti-violence initiative,” said U.S. Attorney Fein. “Many dedicated people and organizations have come together to support this proven strategy to reduce gang and gun violence through focused deterrence.”
How it Works
A critical component of the Project Longevity strategy is the “call-in,” a face-to-face meeting where partners engage group members and deliver certain key messages.
First, that group members are part of a community, that gun violence is unacceptable and that the community needs it to end.
Second, that help is available to all who will accept it in order to transition out of the gang lifestyle, and that social service providers are standing by to assist with educational, employment, housing, medical, mental health and other needs.
Third, that any future violence will be met with clear and certain consequences. The next time a homicide is traced to any member of a violent group, all members of that group will receive increased and comprehensive law enforcement attention to any and all crimes any of its members are committing.
On Monday, the first call-ins of two groups were convened in New Haven. At the call-ins, approximately 25 individuals heard the Project Longevity message from senior leadership of the New Haven Police Department, federal and state prosecutors, outreach workers and other members of the New Haven community.
One Project Longevity participant, Adult Education Director for the New Haven Board of Education Alicia Caraballo, discussed losing her 24-year-old son, who was shot and killed in New Haven in April 2008.
Project Longevity is based on the Group Violence Reduction Strategy developed by the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. The research behind the strategy, which was first implemented in Boston as “Operation Ceasefire” in the mid-1990s, has found that violence in troubled neighborhoods is caused predominantly by a small number of people who are members of street gangs, drug crews and other identified groups.
These groups, whose members typically constitute less than 0.5 percent of a city’s population, often have little organization, hierarchy or common purpose, and commit violent acts primarily for personal reasons, not to achieve any economic gain or other advantage. The Group Violence Reduction Strategy, which also has been deployed in areas of Chicago, Cincinnati, Providence and elsewhere, has resulted in a 40 to 60 percent reduction in group-related homicides in certain neighborhoods.
After Project Longevity is established in Hartford and Bridgeport, the program may be deployed in other Connecticut cities if research and data analysis of a city’s homicide rate determine that the model offers an appropriate solution to gun violence.