The Guardian published an investigation this week into the Bay Area's dramatic drop in gun violence and unearthed some unsurprising yet critical findings: increased policing isn't the answer to gun violence, community-based and public health measures are. The investigation analyzed data from gun homicides over a last decade from over 100 Bay Area cities including Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco. They found that gun homicides had dropped an average of 30% across the region.
There’s early evidence that local violence prevention strategies – including a refocused, more community-driven “Ceasefire” policing strategy, and intensive support programs that do not involve law enforcement at all – were a “key change” contributing to these huge decreases.
They also found that gentrification was not a factor in the reduction because the surrounding areas where displaced communities are moving had a similar reduction in gun violence. A combination of factors including California's attempt to reduce the number of incarcerated people for non-violent crimes, gun laws passed since the 1990s in conjunction with investment in "local prevention strategies" spurred the change according to the investigation.
“The common context among each of these cities – Richmond, Oakland, and San Francisco – is that they have adopted community-driven, non-law enforcement approaches, and they’ve been robustly funded,” said DeVone Boggan, who lead Richmond’s Office of Neighborhood Safety as it developed a nationally recognized fellowship program for men at highest risk of violence.
Echoing what we found in our investigation into racially biased 911 calls, Boggan expressed that changing public expectations is the crux of the solution.
“We have to extend the idea of what public safety is beyond policing and incarceration, to include these things like intervention, outreach and neighborhood empowerment,” Boggan said. “That’s the game changer. That’s the difference-maker.”
As Boggan and others help expand these strategies to other cities, we could see a continued reduction in gun violence across the U.S.