The Guardian offers its take on Richmond, Ca.’s program to pay young men not to kill each other. Set up in 2007 and primarily staffed by ex-convicts, the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS) vowed to provide men who had gun crime convictions with incentives to stop shooting.
At first, they were given social services referrals and life-skills training to find jobs and earn degrees. Three years later, and more controversially, they were offered a monthly cash stipend and supervised trips outside Richmond. The year ONS was founded, Richmond had the ninth highest murder rate in the U.S., with 47 killings among its 106,000 residents, more than 11 times the rate of New York City.
In 2014, the number dropped to 11, the lowest on record since 1971. (The total rose again in 2015, up to 20.) Murder rates have declined nationwide over the past two decades, but the 77 percent drop in Richmond is a statistical outlier. Over the same 2007-14 period, homicides in Oakland and New York City fell by about a third. The success of what became known as the “Richmond model” has generated media hype, and attracted the interest of other communities struggling with gun violence. Few people dispute that the ONS has made an impact on the streets where it started. How much responsibility can the program rightfully claim for Richmond’s turnaround?