Biden gives shout out to Richmond crime prevention program, citing it as model
on July 7, 2021
When President Joe Biden introduced his crime-prevention strategy to reporters in late June, he highlighted the community intervention efforts that DeVone Boggan launched in Richmond in 2010 and encouraged other cities to invest in such programs.
Boggan, former director of Richmond’s Neighborhood Safety Office, started the Advance Peace nonprofit five years ago to introduce his Peacemaker Fellowship program to other cities. The program is similar to Ceasefire and Cure Violence in that it addresses the root causes of gun violence. But it goes a step further, paying a stipend to those at the center of violence to be change agents in their communities, working on the streets to prevent conflicts from escalating to gun fire.
After incorporating the program into its crime-prevention strategy, Richmond saw a measurable decrease in shootings and murders. The City Council recommitted to the program for the current fiscal year, increasing the Neighborhood Safety Office’s budget even as it cut money from the Police Department.
Boggan agrees with that shift, telling Richmond Confidential last week that the city would “greatly benefit” from having more people deployed into neighborhoods where gun violence is more prevalent.
Increasing police budgets hasn’t worked, he said, noting that while those budgets have ballooned, gun violence has continued. “I think what we are seeing, and I think what local stakeholders are seeing in cities like Richmond and even elsewhere, is that policing doesn’t prevent gun violence,” he said. “Policing typically responds to gun violence, after the fact.”
In his June 23 remarks, Biden said cities and states should invest their American Rescue Plan funds in crime-prevention programs such as Advance Peace and a similar program that is showing promise in Chicago, because they focus on those who are most likely to commit gun violence and most likely to be victims of it. These change agents, Biden said, address the impulse issues that can perpetuate a cycle of retaliation.
“DeVone runs a program across California and six other states that enroll high-risk individuals in peace fellowships, complete with intensive mentoring and social services,” the president said. “It’s saving lives.”
Citing a statistic from the Advance Peace website, Biden said that in Sacramento, 91% of of the 47 fellows stayed away from gun violence. The organization’s report notes that one fellow died in gun violence, but that the group possibly saved other lives by preventing 84 potentially violent incidents. Stockton also uses Advance Peace.
The president promoted the Richmond and Chicago programs as one ingredient in a crime prevention strategy that includes tougher gun laws that would ban assault weapons and repeal the shield that protects gun manufacturers from liability.
Boggan was surprised when Biden mentioned him by name in his remarks at the White House, though days earlier, Boggan was part of a panel of experts that met for hours with the president.
“I was with the president for much of that day but did not know he was going to reference Advance Peace, our work, and his thoughts about the effectiveness of our work,” Boggan said.
“It was certainly an honor to talk with the president, spend some really quality time with him, get to know him a little bit,” he continued.
In explaining Advance Peace’s approach, Boggan said the program turns to local residents who had gun charges in their pasts and had been incarcerated but also worked to make themselves “healthier.” After receiving training, those agents go into their communities to develop relationships with people at the center of violence. Often, the agents already know those people. Advance Peace also finds fellows through leads from law enforcement or from others who have gone through the fellowship program.
The program recently partnered with the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Global Health Cities for an evaluation of its work, Boggan said. And after Biden mentioned the program, the CBS news program “60 Minutes” reached out for a future segment on Advance Peace.
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