A team of 20 “street workers” from the Boston Foundation have spent the past year focused on a 1 1/2-square-mile section of the city plagued by gang violence, says the Boston Globe. Their mission is to help drive down crime by building relationships with gang members, and a preliminary evaluation by Harvard researchers says the program shows positive signs. Even as homicides increased sharply in Boston since last year, shootings connected to gangs targeted by the street workers decreased, and so did gang violence in the areas street workers cover, said David Hureau, a research associate at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
The street workers, part of a Boston Foundation program called StreetSafe, are paid to work with so-called impact players, those men believed to be the cause of most of the city's shootings. Begun two years ago, StreetSafe was envisioned as a way to fight crime in five of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods by targeting about 2,000 criminals between 16 and 24 years old, who police believe cause more than three quarters of the city's violence. Unlike the city's street workers, the Foundation's street workers could work past midnight and can be hired despite having criminal records. Success is hard to measure. Street workers have made contact with about 250 impact players from 20 gangs. About 70 youths have been connected with jobs, mental health services, GED programs, and housing, the Boston Foundation says.