The U.S. Attorney’s Office said it knows the precise number of shootings prevented each month in New Haven thanks to an anti-gang-violence initiative: 4.6.
The office released that official number to argue that the initiative, “Project Longevity,” has succeeded in cutting gun violence in New Haven.
The statistic, if believed, has significance. It means that it’s been worth it for the U.S. Department of Justice and the governor of Connecticut to launch Project Longevity in New Haven and then spread it to Bridgeport and Hartford, and that it should continue to be replicated in cities nationwide.
Shootings and killings have indeed dropped since the launch three years ago of Project Longevity: The city recorded 34 homicides and over 100 shootings in the peak year of 2011; more than three-quarters into 2015, the city had seen 12 homicides and 55 shootings. In Project Longevity, federal, state and local law enforcement identifies the gang-bangers most likely to commit more shootings, then offers them the chance of going straight (with help) or face intensive prosecution on federal charges. Click here for a story about a recent “call-in” demonstrating the project’s approach.
And click here for a story detailing how the project caught up with a particularly deadly gang, the Red Side Guerrilla Brims, that had not been on New Haven’s radar.
But it’s not easy to prove that Project Longevity is responsible for that decline. Many other factors may have contributed to the decline: A revival of community policing. New anti-violence programs launched by City Hall. Drug-gang busts that began before Project Longevity and took killers off the street. A general decline in violence that also predated Project Longevity.
Michael Sierra-Arevalo, Yanick Charette and Andrew V. Papachristos acknowledge all those provisos. They’re the researchers from Yale’s Institutution for Social and Policy Studies who undertook a study to tell the U.S. Attorney’s Office how Project Longevity has fared so far in New Haven.
Their research “confirms that Project Longevity is, and will continue to be, a critical component in preventing gun violence in New Haven,” U.S. Attorney Deridre M. Daly argued in a release issued last week.
“We cannot conclude that the observed Longevity effect does not overlap with other unmeasured programs, policies, or services,” Sierra-Arevalo, Charette and Papachristos write in the study, which the U.S. Attorney’s Office released last week.
They say they used their best social-science tools to weed out those other factors and arrive at a number they trust for how much of the violence decline to attribute to Project Longevity. That’s how they arrived at the 4.6 number.
They factored in Hartford’s decline in homicides and shootings, as well, without Project Longevity.
“In the 22 months before the first call-in, overall shootings decreased 55.9 percent. Fatal and non-fatal shootings continued to fall after the start of Longevity, dropping to an average monthly total of 7.3 shootings per month (SD=3.34) after the first call-in. This decline in total shootings, approximately 4 fewer shootings per month, can be observed for both homicides (Before: M=2.23, SD=1.63; After: M=1.61, SD=1.20; t(38)=1.34, p=0.190) and non-fatal shootings (Before: M=9.41, SD=3.43; After: M=5.72, SD=2.74; t(38)=3.69, p=0.001),” the authors write.
To find out what those symbols mean, and to follow the methodology in details, click here.
The study originally focused on three gangs believed to be responsible for a bulk of the shootings and homicides in town: R2, the Grape Street Crips, and the Kensington Street Bloods. The study branched out to many other groups in town; a federal takedown, meanwhile, had diminished Grape Street’s activity, for instance (though it is still believed to have some involvement in recent violence).
“One of the things we learned from the gang audits is what were once thought of as ‘big monolithic’ gangs were often amalgams of smaller crews,” Papachristos stated in an email message.
The researchers also discovered that waht might sound like one big gang in town can turn out to be a loose federation of smaller groups.
Sierra-Arevalo cited the use of the the name “The Bloods” in New Haven: “This is an example of the amalgamation of smaller crews or sets into a larger gang ‘nation’ .... Most of the time when someone says, ‘The whole neighborhood is a Blood neighborhood!’ or ‘They have hundreds of members!,’ the story is more likely to be that they claim a common gang affiliation, but operate largely independently and in much smaller cliques.”
Federal officials claimed they had taken down a massive “Bloods” organization in a 2012 sweep called “Operation Bloodline.”
The new study about Project Longevity does not touch on the other half of the initiative’s core strategy: offering gang-bangers social-service, housing, and job help so they can go straight. No numbers have been issued to date detailing how many New Haveners have taken up the Project Longevity offer and stuck with it.