In some of the largest cities in the United States, the statistics for violent crime rates are rising. Drastic measures are taken in many of these cities to curtail the violence, but one city in California has an unusual solution: Paying people to not commit crimes.
The Office of Neighborhood Safety in Richmond, California operates independently from the Richmond police on reducing the area’s soaring crime rates.
They do so by analyzing police data, and combining it with intelligence gathered by their own street team, consisting of former convicts, to compile a list of individuals most likely to carry out violent crimes, and the ones most likely to fall victim to them.
They then pay those most likely to commit crimes not to, and mentor them away from their dangerous lifestyles. They are approached with an opportunity to join the ONS under a “fellowship,” which includes being paired with a mentor, and a monthly stipend of up to $1,000 to encourage them to forego their at-risk lifestyles.
ONS founder DeVone Boggan says the programme is a mixture of past ideas that have been partially successful, and his own ideas gathered during his time as youth mentoring consultant.
Boggan, a former convict himself, was arrested for selling drugs when he was younger in Michigan. “I desperately needed strong, caring, and consistent adults who were willing to take a risk in believing in me,” Boggan said.
While the ONS and the Richmond police have a cooperative relationship, the ONS absolutely refuses to share its information with the police department, as it would compromise the delicate and up-close relationships that ONS fellows have with the people and neighborhoods they protect.
With both public and private funding, the city of Richmond saw its violent crime rates drop to their lowest point in over 30 years in 2013.
Whether it’s directly related to the work of the ONS or a combination of factors is difficult to say, but there’s no denying that what the ONS does is a progressive and promising idea – one that other major cities might learn a thing or two from.