Like other California cities, San Diego has seen an increase in violent crime over the past year. Shootings were up nearly 30-percent in 2020, and there was a 20-percent increase in the number of “shots fired” calls to police as well. On Wednesday, city officials announced a plan to reduce gun-related violence; a new program called “No Shots Fired” that hopes to broker a peace deal between warring gangs on the city’s streets.
No Shots Fired is a collaboration between the Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention, the Community Assistance Support Team, law enforcement and other city partners. Community organizations will be tapped to reach an agreement with gangs in areas most affected by violent crime, such as Southeastern San Diego, to agree to a cease fire for a six-month period.
“This is an important day for investing in and prioritizing public safety for our communities of concern,” said [City Council member Monica Montgomery] Steppe, who is chair of the council’s Committee on Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods. “After years of disinvestment and the corresponding impacts of community violence, the No Shots Fired Program is a step in the right direction to provide a policy solution that quells violence, promotes economic justice, and improves community policing relationships.”
I’m all in favor of programs that work to reduce violent crime without putting new gun control laws on the books, but the few details released by city officials have left me skeptical that this program is going to do much good. For starters, the idea that gangs are going agree to, much less abide by, a six-month cease fire strikes me as completely unrealistic, especially without the promise of actual consequences for those violent offenders who breach the peace.
I’m really curious about how the city decided on its goal of a six-month stoppage in gang shootings, since it seems like rather arbitrary time period. Why not a year? Why not five years? Why not a permanent ceasefire? Are gang-related shootings going to be any more acceptable in San Diego six months from now? The message shouldn’t be “can you stop shooting each other for a little while.” It needs to be “you’re going to stop shooting. We’ll help you if you let us, but we’ll make you if you don’t.”
Of course, that would require a role for both police and prosecutors, and law enforcement seems to be an afterthought when it comes to the No Shots Fired program.
During that six-month period, organizations will work to provide outreach and resources to known gang members in the target communities and offer the individuals an opportunity for them to exit gang culture and life.
- Community walks
- Street side memorial services
- Faith sponsored “peace meals” and organized outreach
- Cease fire agreements with gang leaders
- Wrap-around services in person
- Virtual meetings with gang members to discuss seasons of peace
- Coordination with law enforcement
Taking cases to federal court would have a much bigger impact on violent crime than holding a community walk or a peace meal. Though there is value to be found in working with gang members on an exit strategy, targeted deterrence efforts can’t be all carrot and no stick if they’re going to be effective.
What happens, for instance, if a gang decides that it doesn’t want to take part in any cease fire? Does the No Shots Fired program have a plan in place on how to deal with street gangs or individual members who decline to participate? If it does, city officials didn’t bring it up during Wednesday’s press conference. Instead, they were full of happy talk about healing communities and economic justice.
That may satisfy the local reporters who showed up at City Hall, but I doubt it’s going to make much of an impact on the city’s most prolific offenders. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not going to hold my breath while I wait for the announcement that San Diego’s gangs have agreed to put down their guns for the next six months.
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