Sacramento Police Department starts Ceasefire program to decrease gang violence
“Stop the violence now” is the message the Sacramento Police Department hopes to get across to the communities of Sacramento that are most impacted by gang violence through its “Ceasefire” program.
The program had its community kick-off event last July, but officially began in November. Captain Dan Schiele of the Sacramento Police Department said gang violence in Sacramento has always been an issue.
“From 2009-2010, there was a 37 percent increase in crimes involving gang members,” said Rhonda Jackson, project director of Ceasefire.
“There are over 4,600 gang members in Sacramento,” she said.
The Ceasefire program originated in Boston.
“Ceasefire has been chosen because the program model has the most potential for reducing gang violence,” Schiele said.
“Ceasefire is a partnership where we attempt to educate the gangs about the initiative, give them alternatives, and let them know the consequences of not stopping the violence,” Schiele said.
South Sacramento was the first area that Ceasefire targeted. Schiele is in charge of the officers in the area who are implementing the Ceasefire strategy.
The partnership includes the Sacramento Police Department, District Attorney’s Office, the Public Health Institute, and about a dozen churches in the city.
Ceasefire works with gang members, giving them resources to leave behind their violent lifestyles.
“SETA (Sacramento Employment and Training Agency) has a whole list of different agencies that can help provide services like substance abuse or mental health.They are also providing case managers for these individuals,” said police Lt. William Champion.
Champion is the project manager of Ceasefire and lieutenant in charge of the gang unit. He also organizes the leadership of the faith-based groups.
“You can’t just arrest away the problem. You have to provide alternatives to the gang lifestyle,” Schiele said.
He added that some of the faith-based groups try to intercept gang members and educate them on alternatives. For example, Genesis Church walked the Mack Road corridor looking for people in need of mentoring or life coaching because they are rated as high-risk young adults.
The Ceasefire strategy is designed for those who have been identified as “drivers of violence.” through the Sacramento Police Departments statistical data and crime reports.
Once the drivers of violence have been identified, the police contact their parole officers, and they are required to attend a meeting.
During this meeting, Ceasefire representatives inform these “drivers of violence” that they can either choose to work with their programs and end their violent lifestyles or, if they continue, then they will go back to jail. If they decide they would like help, they can utilize the free services like job training and counseling.
In addition to having the program in place, Champion encourages the community to take action.
“I hope the community sees the results,” he said, “and sees that they no longer need to be in fear, that this is a partnership, and without the community’s help, we cannot make this a successful venture.”
Jackson said it will take years before the program’s effects on crime can be measured.
“So far we’ve had 20 young people go through the program, and have reached 50 people,” Jackson said.
Schiele emphasized that the purpose of the program is to reduce violence and to stop the killing of young people.
“Young people in the 16-25 age group account for the highest percentage of violence,” Schiele said.
“Once we can get that dialogue across, and that dialogue heard, that the killings and shootings and violence needs to stop now, then we hope there’s a moment where we can actually have a conversation about how we can help them get out of your gang lifestyle,” he said.
Champion says the program still needs some modifications to become successful.
“There’s still a lot to do,” he said. “There’s still call-ins to have, community engagement to happen, new partners to bring on board.
“Hopefully we have success and we reduce violence, and these individuals get the help and services they need to make them successful, and we continue on,” he said. “We’re taking it one step at a time.”