With “street workers” calming gang feuds and a gun task force invading criminal haunts, murder has fallen to a historic low in Providence, the Providence Journal reports. The number of slayings fell by half last year and violent crime overall declined sharply, Police Chief Dean Esserman said. The 11 people killed last year, compared to 22 in 2005, is the fewest in 31 years. Violent crimes decreased 18.6 percent.
Esserman says that since he became chief in 2003, a disciplined, dedicated and properly staffed police department has brought down both violent and property crimes. In a street worker program, government-paid youth workers from the nonprofit Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence mediate conflicts and try to head off violence; a concerted effort to separate criminals from their guns; and community policing. None of the 2006 homicide victims in Providence was younger than 20 years old, a phenomenon in which Teny Gross, director of the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence, takes pride. “We work on small conflicts. We don't wait for them to become huge,” he said. “A lot of little detail works. If a kid gets robbed, we're trying to mediate, trying to get stuff returned.”