UPDATE: Eric Holder, the nation’s top law enforcement official, joined Governor Dannel Malloy and a coalition of service providers today to announce the year-long planning effort “Project Longevity,” a strategy to curtail gang violence in Connecticut cities. The program was launched in New Haven and will carry on in Bridgeport and Hartford. Bridgeport Police Chief Joe Gaudett attended the announcement. Statement from Mayor Bill Finch:
“The underpinnings of Project Longevity, and what makes it such a successful model, is that further gun violence committed by youth and young adults who are prone to such behavior, will no longer be tolerated without repercussions. Most importantly, it shows the young people who partake in senseless violence that ultimately, it’s their choice – they either feel the full force of the law exerted every time any one of them decides to engage in wrongful behavior, or they take the path to a better life with the assistance of state and local social service providers and local law enforcement.”
News release from Connecticut U.S. Attorney David Fein and Malloy:
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 today to launch “Project Longevity,” a comprehensive initiative to reduce gun violence in Connecticut’s major cities. Project Longevity uses a strategy that has shown violence can be reduced dramatically when community members and law enforcement join together to directly 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. 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. “Today’s announcement underscores our commitment to working together–across levels of government and jurisdictional boundaries–to protect the American people from the crime that threatens too many neighborhoods and claims far too many innocent lives.”
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.”
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.
Yesterday, 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.
The Rev. William Mathis has been appointed as Project Longevity’s New Haven Program Manager. The Rev. Mathis is also the Pastor of Springs of Life-Giving Water Church in New Haven, an attorney, a former prosecutor and an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University and the University of New Haven. As program manager, the Rev. Mathis is responsible for developing effective and sustainable working relationships between law enforcement, service providers and community members to insure Project Longevity’s success.
The organizational structure of Project Longevity in New Haven includes a Governing Board, Strategy and Implementation Team, Research Team, Law Enforcement Team, Community Service Provider Team and Community Engagement Team, all of which meet regularly. Project Longevity’s Governing Board includes: U.S. Attorney Fein, Governor Malloy, State Senator Toni Harp, State Representative Toni Walker, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, New Haven Alderperson Jorge Perez, New Haven State’s Attorney Michael Dearington, Court Support Services Executive Director William Carbone, Connecticut Department of Correction Commissioner Leo Arnone, Director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice David Kennedy, and Yale University’s Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs and Campus Development Bruce Alexander.
The Strategy and Implementation Team is co-chaired by New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman and New Haven businessman Howard Hill, and includes members of law enforcement, service providers, researchers and the community. Chief Esserman has previously partnered with the Center for Crime Prevention and Control to implement a similar strategy when he served as police chief in Providence, R.I. Several community and business leaders in New Haven, as well as members of the New Haven Clergy Association, are also actively involved in Project Longevity. In order to assist identified individual transition from a destructive gang lifestyle, Project Longevity has engaged nine service providers in the New Haven area, including Children’s Community Program of Connecticut, Community Service Administration for the City of New Haven, Consultation Center (Yale), Gateway Community College, Elm City Communities, New Haven Family Alliance, Project Model Offender Reintegration Experience (M.O.R.E.), Workforce Alliance/CT Works and United Way of Greater New Haven. The University of New Haven, Yale University and the University of Cincinnati are working with law enforcement to collect and analyze crime data and provide research support to identify the groups and individuals that will be contacted through Project Longevity. Many of these individuals are already known to law enforcement and/or are under the supervision of probation or parole officers.
Other participating Justice Department agencies in Project Longevity include the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals Service.