A Chicago-style "CeaseFire" for Minneapolis

Just this morning we learned that Minneapolis recorded its 31st homicide of the year, a figure that stands in stark contrast to last year's total of 19. But our numbers pale in comparison to Chicago's 458 homicides last year. So maybe it makes sense that Mayor R.T. Rybak is looking to a Chicago program for guidance on how to slow our own death count.

The program -- with roots in academia as well as law enforcement -- is called CeaseFire, and some of its representatives are meeting with Minneapolis city officials today.

According to a 2008 report it submitted as part of a National Institute of Justice grant, CeaseFire appears to have have put the brakes on Windy City street violence in select communities and neighborhoods by:

[Changing] the behavior of a small number of carefully selected members of the community, those with a high chance of either "being shot or being a shooter" in the immediate future.

The strategy:

Violence interrupters worked on the street, mediating conflicts between gangs and intervening to stem the cycle of retaliatory violence that threatens to break out following a shooting. Outreach workers counseled young clients and connected them to a range of services.

It's a flood-the-zone effort that detours around the get-tough-on-the-bastards vibe, but it appears to work. (Rybak has already announced a get-tough component: Project Exile).

There were significant shifts in gang homicide patterns in most of these areas due to the program, including declines in gang involvement in homicide and retaliatory killings.

That includes:

  • 1-73% drops in shootings and killings in CeaseFire zones.
  • 16- 35% drops in shootings directly attributable to CeaseFire.
  • 100% reductions in retaliation murders in 5 of 8 neighborhoods.

Could CeaseFire work in Minneapolis? Its outreach director, Frank Perez, makes no promises, telling MPR, ""We're just here to try to impart some wisdom or some knowledge of something we've been doing for a few years that's working for us and share it with you."

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