Anti-Violence Program ‘Roca’ to Start in Baltimore

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A majority of urban crimes are committed by a small slice of the population. Between half and three-quarters of all killings and shootings occur within about three to five percent of any city’s blocks. A little more than half of all homicides are committed by one percent of the population, according to FBI data. In recent decades, as cities have focused their efforts on reducing crime, many have launched anti-violence programs aimed at zeroing in on the small handful of residents most likely to commit those crimes, Governing reports. Those include efforts such as Project Longevity in New Haven, Ct., and New York City’s Man Up, which was modeled after Chicago’s Operation Ceasefire, a program that uses violence interrupters to reduce the number of retaliatory violence in the city.

Sometimes, those kinds of initiatives aren’t enough. That’s where something like Massachusetts’ Roca program comes in. Roca, which means “rock” in Spanish, is a unique type of crime-intervention program that focuses in on the riskiest of at-risk residents, the community’s most troubled young men who won’t take part in other programs and are the most resistant to change. Roca is launching its first out-of-state location in one of the nation’s highest-crime cities: Baltimore. The Maryland city has been reeling from more than 1,000 homicides committed over the past three years. Its new Roca program — a $17 million, four-year commitment — is slated to begin this summer. The target group for Roca is young men in their late teens and early 20s who have already come into contact with the criminal justice system. Roca’s service workers work with law enforcement, as well as parole and probation officers, to identify the offenders who are the most at-risk, the ones least likely to accept help from other programs.

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