By Tasion Kwamilele
Within the past five years, the City of Richmond has experienced increased rates of gun violence with more than 240 shootings and 47 homicides in a single year. In 2007, city officials created the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS) to help identify and intervene in such gun- related activity as well as build partnerships and support initiatives that create greater neighborhood and community well-being.
African American men, between the ages of 16 and 25, make up 80% of individuals engaged in gun related crimes. Statistics also prove a high proportion of persons on probation and parole are more likely to become involved in criminal activity. It’s these individuals that ONS primarily targets
The outreach workers for ONS, known as Neighborhood Change Agents (NCA), serve as brokers to social services for those individuals and work to promote positive lifestyles. The ONS workers partner with community/faith-based leadership and organizations to implement innovative evidence-based best practices that reduce and prevent gun violence. They also partner with the John Muir Trauma Center to offer support and assistance to the gunshot victim. The NCA workers use the trauma situation as a teaching moment and as an opportunity to interrupt the retaliatory thinking of the victim.
Since its inception, ONS and the City of Richmond have reported a decline in gun related activity and homicides. In 2010, the city of Richmond experienced 21 homicides, a 55% reduction from the 47 homicides in 2009.
The ONS attributes their success to the young men that have been working to make heroic decisions to change their lives as well as the positive interaction and relationship with the Richmond Police Gang unit leadership. They also credit the California Department of Corrections, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the growing assistance and partnerships of local agencies and community members for helping to lower the homicide rate..
For more information about the City of Richmond’s, Office of Neighborhood Safety contact Director DeVone Boggan at 510.932.9388 or email DeVone_Boggan@ci.richmond.ca.us.