'New Yorker' Highlights Cincinnati's Anti-Gang Efforts

Jun 18, 2009 at 2:46 pm

The lead feature article in the new issue of The New Yorker focuses on the anti-gang program Cincinnati implemented two years ago. John Seabrook's "Don't Shoot" is a long, well-researched and well-written story about David Kennedy, who devised the "Ceasefire" crime-fighting model in Boston, and his experiences here implementing C.I.R.V. (Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Crime).—-

If you're a New Yorker web site subscriber, you can see the full story here. Otherwise, the best I can do online right now is link to the article's "abstract."

Kennedy first came to Cincinnati in fall 2006 to discuss his "Ceasefire" program, which had been successful in Boston in helping reduce drug- and gang-related murders. Kennedy is director of the Center on Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and developed the concept while at Harvard University. (For background, see Kevin Osborne's February 2007 story "Finally Ready for a Ceasefire" and my October 2006 editorial "It's a Crime.")

Among the article's interesting tidbits:

• In general Cincinnati Police leaders don't think much of crime-fighting ideas suggested by academia ("They like theories, we like results," Capt. Daniel Gerard says) or social service folks ("Social people hug thugs. We kick their butts," Lt. Col. James Whalen says).

• The C.I.R.V. team hosted five "call-ins" between July 2007 and December 2008 — known gang leaders were brought together in a sort of intervention when cops, attorneys, social workers and ex-cons tried to change their criminal behavior through a combination of threats, fear, appeal to conscience and tough love. Seabrook was allowed to attend the most recent one.

• C.I.R.V. almost imploded last summer after a poorly planned and executed "call-in." Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. wanted to pull police leaders off the team, but Mayor Mark Mallory talked him into staying.

• Dr. Victor Garcia, director of trauma services at Children's Hospital Medical Center who was instrumental in bringing Kennedy to town and in forming C.I.R.V., was dismissed from the C.I.R.V. team last month, apparently over philosophical differences with Kennedy.

• Streicher found a job for one gang leader with a roofing company owned by a friend.