Police increased their presence at Woodland Terrace, a public housing complex in Southeast Washington, July 31, 2015, after a spate of killings in the neighborhood.
Photograph by Evelyn Hockstein—The Washington Post/Getty Images
By Claire Groden
March 29, 2016

Washington, D.C. and a handful of cities facing a surge in violence are looking to an unconventional crime-fighting experiment in Richmond, Calif., where some criminals are paid not to kill.

The Richmond program hires ex-convicts to mentor gang members and violent offenders, using cash, counseling programs, and other incentives to prevent crime, according to The Washington Post. Though the mentors are paid by the city, they build community trust by not turning in criminal offenders.

It’s a controversial tactic that more cities are considering emulating as they experience violent crime spikes this year. In Washington, D.C., where the city council and mayor are in a stand-off about copying the program, homicides increased by 54% in 2015 over the previous year, according to the local WTOP station. This month, D.C.’s city council unanimously approved the idea, according to the Post.

The success of the Richmond program is still up for debate: after five years, 84 of the program’s 88 mentees remain alive, and 4 in 5 have steered clear of being suspected in further gun-related crimes. But it’s not clear whether the program has had much impact on the broader city, since homicides are increasing citywide, according to the Post.

 

Aside from officials in the District of Columbia, leaders in Miami, Toledo, Baltimore, and other cities are also examining the potential to copy Richmond’s example.

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