Operation PeaceWorks

A Direct Intervention Approach to Reducing Gang Violence in the City of Oxnard

Overview

Operation PeaceWorks (OPW)

OPW is a gang intervention program funded by a California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention (CalGRIP) grant from the State of California Governor’s Office of Gang and Youth Policy (OGYP) and administered by California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA).   The program has been funded by two CalGRIP Program grants.  The first grant funded two years and ended March 31, 2011.  A second CalGRIP grant was applied for in 2010 and took effect in 2011 which will fund the program through the end of 2012.

 Operation PeaceWorks is a partnership:

  • Oxnard Police Dept.
  • Oxnard City Corps
  • City Impact, Inc.
  • Ventura County Probation Agency
  • Oxnard Clergy Council
  • Ventura County Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children (POMC)
  • Port Hueneme Police Department, and
  • Ventura County Sheriff’s Office

The target area:

The City of Oxnard,

The City of Port Hueneme, and

The Unincorporated area of El Rio


 The goal:

A Rapid Reduction in Gang Related Assaults and Homicides


The program has three basic components:

The Direct Intervention portion is partially modeled after the Group Violence Reduction Strategy known as ‘Operation Ceasefire’ from Boston, which has been replicated in approximately 70 cities throughout the Country.  It seeks to target those youth most involved in gang violence and offers them not only an opportunity to step away from gang violence, but help in doing it.  It uses an approach where representatives from the criminal justice system and the community, together, confront the identified youth (ages 12 to 24), in person, at a meeting known as a ‘Call-In’ with the message that the violence will no longer be tolerated in the community.

Call-Ins

Speakers at the Call-In include the Chief of Police, prosecutors, gang and probation officers, ex gang-members, wheelchair bound shooting victims, the clergy, and mothers who have lost sons to gang violence.  It has been found that much of the effectiveness of this strategy is that gang members hear from members of their own community, and people that have been where they are now, that the violence is not acceptable.  This ‘moral voice of the community’ is powerful and the judgment of peers, family members and communities that crime is wrong has been shown to have greater impact on behavior than the threat of formal sanctions.

Service Learning/Wraparound Services

In an enhancement to the Operation Ceasefire model, Oxnard area youth are asked to enter a job training/civic responsibility program at Oxnard City Corps.  Those that agree to enter the program and step away from violence are told that police efforts aimed at them will be reduced for as long as they are in the program and not involved in gang activity.  They are assigned a case manager to assist them through the program and provide other needed assistance such as GED classes, classes on job seeking skill building, mentoring, and counseling (provided by a second CalGRIP- Workforce Investment Act grant known as Transformation Works administered by City Impact, a community based organization).

Participant Reviews

A meeting is held monthly to review the progress of program participants by all agencies involved in supervising and providing services, as well as the Police Department.  This assures that all partners are coordinating the efforts to assist the participant, and that partners can be unified in either their positive reinforcement for progress or consequences for negative behavior.

Consequences

Those that refuse to step away from the violence are informed that they will be under intense police and prosecutorial scrutiny as they are known to be responsible for the gang violence in the City, and that the community will be in support of those efforts in order to safeguard the community. Those that continue the violence and are arrested are vigorously prosecuted to the full extent of the law, both State and Federal.


Background

Group Violence Reduction Strategy

 

The National Network for Safe Communities (NNSC) is an alliance of cities dedicated to advancing proven strategies to combat violent crime, reduce incarceration and rebuild relations between law enforcement and distressed communities.

For nearly fifteen years, scores of jurisdictions across the country have been implementing two effective strategies to reduce violence and eliminate drug markets. The strategy for preventing gang violence, first developed in Boston, MA, has been successfully applied in cities as diverse as Chicago, IL, Cincinnati, OH, and Stockton, CA. The strategy for eliminating overt community drug markets, first developed in High Point, NC, has been successfully applied in cities as diverse as Providence, RI, Hempstead, NY, and Nashville, TN.

There is now a substantial body of research and field experience documenting that these strategies are associated with large reductions in violent and drug crime.  The evidence for the efficacy of this approach to reduce gang or group-related violence has accumulated over a decade and is extremely persuasive.

The National Network for Safe Communities believes that these successful innovations mean that America can deal with its crime problems in a fundamentally different way. The National Network brings together the jurisdictions around the country that are currently implementing either the group violence reduction strategy (GVRS) or the drug market intervention  (DMI) strategy or both; help them learn from one another; help them address common issues; provide a supportive community of practice for new jurisdictions; and work to make these strategies standard practice across the United States.

The strategy is unusual, but based on common sense and practical experience.  Violence in troubled neighborhoods is caused predominantly by a remarkably small and active number of people locked in group dynamics on the street: gangs, drug crews, and the like.  The internal dynamics of these groups and the “honor” code of the street drive violence between groups and individuals.  The individuals that comprise these groups typically constitute less than 0.5 percent of a city’s population.

The strategy holds that violence can be dramatically reduced when community members and law enforcement join together to directly engage with these groups and clearly communicate:  (1) a credible, moral message against violence; (2) a credible law enforcement message about the consequences of further violence; and (3) a genuine offer of help for those who want it.  To do this, a partnership of law enforcement, social service providers, and community actors – parents, ministers, gang outreach workers, neighborhood associations, ex-offenders, and others – must be assembled and must engage in a sustained relationship with violent groups.

The key moment in the strategy is a “call-in,” or “notification,” repeated as necessary: a face-to-face meeting between gang members and the partnership.   The partners deliver key messages to gang members:  that the violence is wrong and has to stop; that the community needs them alive and out of prison and with their loved ones; that help is available to all who would accept it; and that any future violence will be met with clear, predictable, and certain consequences.

A substantial body of research in support of the efficacy of the group violence reduction strategy has been assembled over the past 15 years.  Please visit Research Findings for a list of Essential Readings as well as a Full Index for the research available to date.

Listen to National Network Co-Chair Director David Kennedy outline the strategy, its early success in Boston in the mid-1990s, and its roll-out to more than 50 cities across the United States.  In a previous interview on the Dylan Ratigan Show, National Network Co-Chair David Kennedy explained why the Network’s proven and resource-neutral violence reduction strategies have succeeded where traditional approaches to fixing the criminal justice system or supporting distressed communities have failed.

 The California Partnership for Safe Communities (CPSC)

CPSC consists of the Cities within the State of California that have been grant funded to implement the  Group Violence Reduction Strategy, known as Operation Ceasefire, and the Public Health Institue who provides technical assistance to those Cities.  Due to the success of program implementation, Oxnard has been used as a demonstration site for new cities implementing the strategy.


Documents Relating to Oxnard’s Gang Reduction Program:

City of Oxnard’s flyer describing Operation PeaceWorks

2010-2011 City of Oxnard, Gang Reduction Program Report

Operation PeaceWorks Quarterly Report, ‘Quick Glance’ Vol1Issue1

Operation PeaceWorks Quarterly Report, ‘Quick Glance’  Vol. 1 Issue 2

Operation PeaceWorks Quarterly Report, ‘Quick Glance’ Volume 1, Issue 3

City of Oxnard’s Operation PeaceWorks Report on First Two Years

For those interested in learning more about the Group Violence Reduction Strategy (commonly referred to as Operation Ceasefire), involving the ‘moral voice of the community’, the below documents discuss in detail the strategy and the State and National efforts to engage more Cities:

National Criminal Justice Association Justice Bulletin on Operation Ceasefire in California

 

California Governor’s Office of Gang and Youth Violence Policy, final report

 

National Network for Safe Communities, Frequently Asked Questions regarding Operation Ceasefire

 

National Network for Safe Communities Factsheet

 

Article in the New Yorker regarding Operation Ceasefire

 

John Jay College of Criminal Justice Practice Brief: Norms, Narratives, and Community Engagement for Crime Prevention