Crime - Sacto 911

Sacramento targets city’s most lethal criminals in controversial anti-violence program

Sacramento leaders on Monday signed a contract to launch a controversial gun-violence reduction program in an effort to convince dangerous young men on Sacramento streets to give up their homicidal lifestyles.

Sacramento has committed to a four-year, $1.5 million contract with Advance Peace, a program originating in Richmond that targets “shooters,” often black or Latino, who are most likely to commit or be the victims of gun violence. The program pairs those men with older community members – often reformed former gang members or felons themselves – in an effort to guide the shooters out of criminal pursuits.

Advance Peace has generated controversy because it provides payments to gun criminals for completing specific programs intended to reform their ways. Under the contract, the stipends are backed by outside philanthropic funds, not city money.

“Our hope and that of the community members here is that Advance Peace will help these young men who are at the center of this crisis see and value that there is more to life than what they are doing,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said during a ceremonial signing of the contract with neighborhood activists Monday afternoon in Meadowview.

Steinberg said there have been 36 gang-related homicides this year in Sacramento, and more than 1,000 arrests in gun-related crimes. In Sacramento, the rate of homicides “cleared” was 55.8 percent in 2015, according to the latest data available from the state Department of Justice, significantly less than the national average of 61.5 percent reported through FBI figures.

Councilman Larry Carr said many gun crimes are committed by men who know one another or are rivals. Those crimes can be difficult to solve because of the relationships of those involved and because community members can be hesitant to cooperate with investigations. In Sacramento, a series of shootings has been tied to online music videos in which the artists trade online insults that lead to street violence.

“They menace and otherwise threaten an otherwise safe community,” Carr said of the young men suspected of gun violence. In Sacramento, Advance Peace will target about 50 people for its first group, which is expected to start by spring 2018.

Advance Peace is credited by supporters with reducing gun violence in Richmond. An independent review of Advance Peace by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency found 83 percent of fellows who participated there have avoided injury by a firearm since going through the program and 77 percent haven’t had a new firearm charge or arrest.

Richmond also saw a 57 percent drop in gang-related gun homicides and a 51 percent drop in gun-related assaults in the six-year period from 2010 to 2016 when Advance Peace was operating, compared to the previous six years, according to Advance Peace data collected through the Richmond Police Department.

Sacramento is the first city to attempt to replicate Richmond’s program.

Critics say Advance Peace pays violent criminals not to shoot guns.

Participants can receive $9,000 stipends during an 18-month period for reaching goals such as successfully completing substance abuse treatment or completing education. In Sacramento, Sheriff Scott Jones and Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert have expressed reservations.

Sacramento Police Department Chief Daniel Hahn, who attended Monday’s event, said he has met with Advance Peace CEO DeVone Boggan and believes law enforcement will be able to work with the program, especially if the street-level outreach workers are local hires.

“I find it hard to believe that if you have (community members as outreach workers), that they care if people are going to get hurt, that they wouldn’t do something” to work with law enforcement if they had knowledge of an impending crime, Hahn said.

“We have to be willing to try new things because the alternative is people dying, getting injured, and it’s not just the impact on them, it’s the whole community,” he said.

City Manager Howard Chan said the contract specifies money for stipends will not come from city funds. Advance Peace is backed by Silicon Valley venture capital firm DRK Foundation and will contribute $1.5 million in matching funds, which will be used in part to pay the expenses of participants.

The city’s $1.5 million will pay for office space, staff and administrative costs of running the program. The city can cancel its agreement after the first cohort completes its 18-month fellowship.

Nicole Clavo, the mother of Jaulon “J.J.” Clavo, also spoke at the signing in support of Advance Peace.

J.J. Clavo was 17 when he was shot in Del Paso Heights two years ago, allegedly by 16-year-old Keymontae Lindsey. Lindsey’s next court date to decide if he will be tried as a juvenile or adult is currently scheduled for Dec. 19, said his lawyer, Kevin Adamson.

“I can only imagine had Advance Peace ... been in place in 2015 when my son was murdered, that he may have not been murdered,” Nicole Clavo said. “Because that young man may have had programs or mentors that would have been available to him that would have taken the gun out of his hand.”

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa