A 19-year-old Rochester man was dying in a “thrill kill” when a squad car reached the scene and David Kennedy stepped out. Kennedy, a Harvard University criminologist, was working to quell an unusually high level of homicides in New York’s third-biggest city, reports the Associated Press. “Here was this utterly inoffensive young man who died right in front of us,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy devised a community policing strategy called. Operation Ceasefire. In Boston, where it began in 1996, homicides among people under age 25 have declined by 66 percent. The program has been used with good results in more than a dozen cities, from Stockton, Calif., and Winston-Salem, N.C., to Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and New Haven, Conn. “When it works, you get big, rapid reductions in serious violence,” Kennedy said. He expects that kind of success in Rochester, a city of 220,000 where 57 were killed last year.
The concept is to identify the multiple street groups, often enmeshed in the drug trade, that commit most killings. Then set down a vigorously enforced standard: Harm anyone, and your entire clique will be punished.
Authorities used every tactic at their disposal – undercover drug buys, saturation patrols, old warrants – to methodically dismantle the gang that killed the Rochester man. Another 20 chronic offenders on probation or parole and known for links to violent groups were brought to a courtroom to meet with social workers, community leaders, and law enforcement officials. It was the first in a series of call-ins intended to spread the word: The rules had changed.