Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., recently announced a new “Smart on Crime” initiative. A key component of the initiative is prevention of violent crime.
Here in Detroit, a new violent crime prevention strategy called Ceasefire Detroit began on Thursday. The community-led program is part of the plan developed by the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, formed under the White House’s national forum. Ceasefire Detroit is enforced by Detroit One, a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement and the community to reduce homicide and violent crime in Detroit.
Ceasefire has been successful in other parts of the country, including Boston and Cincinnati. Developed by Professor David M. Kennedy of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, Ceasefire works to reduce gang violence. Prof. Kennedy is bringing the program to Detroit under a Justice Department grant. The pilot program will cover the geographic area of the Detroit Police Department’s Eastern District.
Here is how Ceasefire Detroit works. Violent street group members on parole or probation are called in to meetings as a condition of their release. There, they meet with three sets of participants. First, law enforcement officials explain to the street groups that continued violence will result in prosecution and stiff prison sentences. Second, social service providers describe services that are available under re-entry programs to help street group members succeed outside of prison, such as job training programs, substance abuse counseling, and bus transportation, for example.
But the key component that makes Ceasefire unique is the third meeting component, comprised of individuals from the street groups’ own communities -- clergy members, ex-offenders and families of victims of violent crime. Community members describe in graphic and personal terms the consequences of violence in their neighborhood, and insist that thehelp stop the violence.
It is this expression of community outrage against the violence that makes Ceasefire so successful. As Prof. Kennedy says, even criminals care about kids and grandmothers.
The statistics show that the program works. Upon introducing Ceasefire, the homicide rate in Boston went down by 60 percent, and in Cincinnati by 41 percent.
Kennedy’s theory is that most street violence is driven by small groups of high-rate offenders, such as gangs and drug crews. Most of the violence comes from rivalries and friction between these groups. Reaching out directly to these groups, letting them know they are being watched, providing alternatives to the cycle of violence, and most importantly, telling them that they are tearing apart families and ruining lives, makes an impact unlike any enforcement effort can.
The street group members often heed the one voice they have never heard before – the moral voice of the community.
Barbara L. McQuade
United States Attorney
Eastern District of Michigan