“Last Saturday night, three gunmen ran onto the 2000 block of Second Street in Central City, looking for a young man who had stolen a car earlier that week,” nola.com reports. “Neighbors say that the trio . . . aimed their semi automatics toward a group of men playing cards on top of a plastic trash cart. Bullets injured one of the card players in the leg and, on nearby porches, tore off part of a man’s ear and hit a woman in the abdomen.” Sounds like a job for the police, eh?
The incident drew a quick response from a promising new initiative called Solutions Not Shootings, which approaches gun violence like a deadly disease and aims to stem its spread. It is modeled after the nationally acclaimed CeaseFire model, which some credit with drastically reducing gun violence in Chicago.
When a news story labels a new program “promising” whilst saying that “some” unspecified group of individuals think it’s “the” answer to a particular problem, what they’re really saying is . . .
“There is no data to support the conclusion that this idea has any merit whatsoever but I don’t want to ruin the main thrust of the story by getting into a digression so let’s just assume it’s the gospel truth and get on with it.”
And why wouldn’t we? Opposing a new initiative to curb gun violence is like grabbing your crotch and intentionally singing the national anthem off-key before a major league baseball game (only worse ’cause a liberal did that). Especially as there’s a PC sub-plot: rehabilitating criminals into community organizers. Sorry, “violence interrupters.”
New Orlean’s Solutions Not Shootings (SNS) isn’t making a big deal of this aspect of the program—even though it’s the cornerstone of the entire initiative. To sidestep questions about the wisdom of hiring convicted criminals to “defuse” inter-gang violence, SNS’s website couches the ex-con part of the program in social services gobbledygook:
SNS seeks to stop shootings and killings in New Orleans using a unique combination of outreach work and case management, conflict mediation, community mobilization, and public education.
In other words, SNS pays ex-cons to try to get the bad guys not to shoot each other. Again. Which is fair enough, I suppose, aside from one little wrinkle:
“We have a very tight focus,” said August Collins Sr., who has helped shape the program through his employer, the Youth Empowerment Project, a partner in the Central City pilot. The program’s staff doesn’t give tips to police, Collins said. They’re not there to stop the drug trade or whatever else is going on in the neighborhood. All they want to do is stop the next shooting.
“It’s really much more about prevention,” said Dr. Karen DeSalvo, the city’s health commissioner.
Why do I get the feeling that this SNS deal puts New Orleans on a slippery slope? Under this scheme, a non-governmental organization will be paying convicted criminals to schmooze with perps. While everyone assumes these violence interrupters will be working for the community’s well-being, will they? Chances are they’ll identify with the criminals, and do what they can to help them.
Does that mean they’ll be advising perps to turn themselves in to the police? Hardly. That would eliminate the violence interrupters’ entree into the gangs’ inner circle. So what does it mean? What exactly will these interrupters be doing, and who will make sure that what they’re doing is a good thing, not a bad thing?
It seems that the violence interrupters will be immune from police interrogation. Legally, they should have no immunity. But as Dr. DeSalvo’s support indicates, the SNS will have the political juice to shield their ex-cons from police unhappy with the idea of ex-cons shielding dangerous criminals from investigation, arrest, conviction and incarceration.
Perhaps now would be a good time to mention that SNS—like all the rest of these “violence interrupter” programs—is funded by tax dollars.
Solutions Not Shootings will begin hiring within weeks, as soon as the city extends a $250,000 cooperative-endeavor agreement for the program’s first year of outreach, which includes violence interrupters.
I thought the cops and the courts–answerable to the public—are supposed to be the real violence interrupters. Yes, The Big Easy’s police force has been thoroughly discredited and dishonored. But turning to a quasi-governmental organization to address gun violence is not the answer.
And while giving convicted criminals a chance to redeem themselves is a great idea, putting them at the center of criminal activity while they remain outside the law is not. IMHO.