Nearly a hundred years ago, Will Rogers said, “Make crime pay. Become a lawyer.” But even Will would have been at a loss for words to describe a recent decision by the Sacramento City Council to pay the 50 most well-known, trigger-happy gang members up to $500 a month, for up to 18 months, not to nine each other.
Here’s how the council rationalized this bizarre decision and passed it by a unanimous vote on August 29: It seems the 80/20 rule applies to gang shootings, like nearly everything else in life. When someone is shot in Sacramento, police are sure that one of about 50 young men pulled the trigger. According to Khaalid Muttaqi, director of the city’s gang prevention and intervention task force, that estimate comes in part from a city analysis of five years of homicide data and intelligence. But instead of rounding up the usual suspects, and applying pressure till one of them identifies the shooter, now a program called Advance Peace plans to round them up and practice one-on-one intervention that includes therapy, mentoring and payments to them when they many people take for granted, like beating drug abuse, improving parenting skills, or getting a high school diploma, and presumably, not shooting their home room teacher in the process.
Why would anyone even think of approving a plan like this? It’s Sacramento’s immediate response to the most recent gang-related shooting. On Sunday, August 27, one of three rival rap groups was shooting a music video in the Meadowview area when a second gang shot up the festivities, wounding four and killing one. At Tuesday’s council meeting, Mayor Darrell Steinberg said, “We don’t have a moment to wait here. It’s another shooting on Sunday in Meadowview involving this feud over who gets credit for writing music. On the one hand it’s baffling, but on the other hand it’s real.”
Of course, the Sacramento City Council didn’t dream up this plan overnight. They had been considering it for a while, and it was on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting well before the Sunday shootings. Advance Peace was created by DeVone Boggan who implemented it just xx miles west in Richmond, CA. (Yes, the same Richmond that planned to sieze 624 houses through eminent domain and give them back to their owners for roughly 50% off their mortgages.)
Just like they do in Richmond, Advance Peace proposes to make friends with the Sacramento men considered most likely to kill with a gun. They would be named “fellows”, and would get 24/7 support from reformed felons who would act as their mentors. Boggan claims that his program is producing results in Richmond. He also claims Advance Peace supported by philanthropic contributions, so it will cost Sacramento taxpayers nothing.
Not everyone is convinced. Councilwoman Angelique Ashby said the proposal was “sorely lacking and in my opinion, leaves the city of Sacramento completely vulnerable to being taken advantage of.” She pointed out that the contract does not require Advance Peace to match the city’s financial investment in the program with its own money.
District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert wasn’t impressed, either. She said she has “many concerns” and pointed out that Sacramento already has community organizations that “provide excellent youth mentoring and intervention programs.”
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones was even more critical. In an email interview with the Sacramento Bee, he said he has “fundamental objections” to the program and to the idea of paying “people just to (not) commit crimes or shoot people.”
Of course, in liberal strongholds like the Sacramento City Council, emotion frequently trumps logic. The mayor’s response to objections raised is a classic. “Yes, (the contract) is a little bit messy, but no more messy than what’s going on in the Oak Park and Meadowview neighborhoods,” Mayor Steinberg said.
The council voted to move forward with Advance Peace, 9 – 0.