Young men are paid to avoid involvement in shootings and it’s working


But the price is low compared to the cost of taxpayers footing the bill for a homicide or non-fatal gun violence, which is more than $229 billion a year or nearly $400,000 for a single shooting

By Frederick H. Lowe

Gunmen killed one person and wounded four others during a violent weekend in a Sacramento, California neighborhood.

The gun assaults and the homicide exemplified the ongoing rise in gun crimes in California’s capital, and city officials were determined to find a solution that identified and addressed the problem before another person was either killed or wounded.

The city decided on a non-traditional approach to the problem, which includes paying young men up to$1,000 a month as a way of reducing gun violence.

The Sacramento City Council voted unanimously in August to sign a $1.5 million three-year agreement with Advance Peace, a non-profit violence-reduction program that identifies and then intervenes with young men 16 to 27 years old who threaten violence long before they pull the trigger.

Black men develop a healthier view of themselves

Advance Peace first achieved success in Richmond, California, once labeled one of the country’s most-dangerous cities because of high levels of gun violence. Advance Peace sharply reduced homicides by 54 percent and gun assaults by 50 percent.

DeVone Boggan, former director of Richmond’s Office of Neighborhood Safety, founded Advance Peace in 2010 to combat the city’s soaring number of homicides and firearm assaults by appealing to young men’s more positive view of themselves.

It’s a challenging job because black men suffer daily as a result of microaggressions that assault their humanity.

In the book “Chokehold: Policing Black Men,” author Paul Butler points out that the most-common fear about African-American men is that they are responsible for committing most crimes.

“For young black men, this stereotype is so deeply entrenched that unless they affirmatively demonstrate they are not criminals, people assume that they are,” Butler wrote.

The organization’s success attracted the attention of other cities grappling with rising violent crime.

Advance Peace’s Operation Peacemaker

Advance Peace manages the Operation Peacemaker Fellowship, which pays young men, known as Fellows, who are more likely to become involved in shootings as the shooter, up to $1,000 a month for 13 months of the 18 months they are enrolled in the program if they stay out of trouble. Fellows also are paid based on their commitment to Operation Peacemaker.

I asked Boggan if calling the enrollees Fellows, a honorific title of respect given to people working for major foundations, lets them know much is expected of them.

“Indeed!  That is exactly right.  As part of our work to also speak LIFE into them.  Emerson once said, treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is.  Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.  I have seen firsthand how by raising our expectations of these young men, most rise to the occasion,” Boggan said.

Once a young man becomes a Fellow, Advance Peace provides human, social and economic opportunities to them, understanding that they are traditionally isolated from those services because of their life circumstances. The services offered include life coaching, mentoring, multiple daily contacts and travel opportunities.

Fellows travel to other states and outside the country. Some traveled to to Robben Island in Cape Town, South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was held a political prisoner for 27 years. Travel is designed to open the Fellows’ eyes to new worlds.

In its first year in Sacramento, Advance Peace wants to enroll 50 men in its Operation Peacemaker Fellowship Program. Advance Peace’s goal is to reduce gun-related homicides and gun-related assaults 20 percent by the end of its second year.

Advance Peace works with a foundation

Advance Peace works with Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation and The California Endowment, which is headquartered in Los Angeles. Draper Richards Kaplan has offices in Menlo Park, California, and Boston.

On its website, Draper Richards and Kaplan wrote, “Building trust cuts gun violence but cash always helps.”

Advance Peace also operates an “Elders Circle,” which is comprised of elderly men of color who identify young men who run the risk of engaging in gun violence. The elders invite younger men to join the program.

A small number of shooters cause most of the trauma

Advance Peace works on the proven fact that only a small number of men are responsible for most shootings. These men are known to police but law enforcement usually can’t build a case against them for any number of reasons.

In Sacramento, there are about 50 young men committing most of the shootings, said Khaalid Muttaqi, director of the city’s gang prevention and intervention bureau.

Many are skeptical of the program because of the money involved

Some detractors complain Sacramento is giving away taxpayer money to bad guys to keep the peace.

Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said she had many concerns about Advance Peace and that Sacramento already has community organizations that provide youth mentoring and intervention programs.

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said he objected to the idea of paying people not to shoot people or commit other crimes.

There other critics.

“Why not just arrest these animals and throw away the key?” one person wrote. Another wrote about the program’s announcement, saying “This is a satire article, right?”

The unseen and unreported high cost of gun violence

But the $1.5 million to fund the program is a relatively modest sum compared to the high cost of gun violence.

Mother Jones magazine estimated in a 2015 article, titled “The True Cost of Gun Violence in America,” that the total cost of gun violence in the U.S. is more than $229 billion a year or at least $400,000 for every homicide caused by a gun.

DeVone Boggan

Nationally, there are 31,000 deaths and 78,000 nonfatal injuries every year due to gun violence, according to an American Psychological Association report “Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention and Policy.”

In Sacramento, the estimated government cost of a homicide is $1 million, Muttagi said. This includes the cost of an investigation, prosecution and years of incarceration, he added.  

Sacramento is experiencing an increase in gun violence. In 2015, the city reported a 54 percent jump in gun homicides and a 47 percent spike in firearm assaults compared with 2014.

Some stakeholders like things the way they are

Because of the huge amounts of money involved, there are stakeholders who benefit from keeping things as they are.

In Richmond, Calif.,  some patrolmen earned up to $300,000 per year including overtime, Boggan said. “The cost of policing is higher than it’s ever been,” he added. At one point, Richmond’s overtime budget averaged $600,000 per month.

Other stakeholders include prosecutors, prisons, jails, private prisons and television news, which often broadcasts shootings as the lead story on their nightly news broadcasts.

Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn told the Sacramento Bee newspaper he supports Advance Peace as a “tool” in fighting gun crimes, but current enforcement and community intervention programs are needed as well. He believes monitoring the program and obtaining proof of results would be essential to seeing how successful it is.




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