Stockton Mayor Considers Adopting Program That Pays Criminals Not To Shoot People

Following a string of grisly homicides in the city, Stockton's mayor announced on Twitter that he is exploring several ways to reduce violent crimes — including adopting a controversial but successful program in Richmond that pays people with a history of firearms charges not to use guns. 

"All life is sacred and even one homicide is too many..." wrote Mayor Michael Tubbs in a statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday. "I'm exploring programs like Detroit's Project Greenlight and Richmond's Advance Peace to bolster our public safety efforts." 

Four people have been killed in Stockton since Monday, raising the number of homicides for the year up to 23, according to the Stockton Record and the Sacramento Bee.

Detroit's Project Green Light places real-time cameras in some city gas stations. A live stream feeds back to police headquarters, which is intended to help law enforcement monitor high crime areas. Because the cameras are visible to the public, it's also meant to deter criminal activity. 

Meanwhile, Richmond's Advance Peace program made national news after implementation in 2007. The program essentially uses taxpayer money to pay young men with a history of gun charges not to re-offend — in other words, not to shoot other people. 

Participants have the opportunity to earn up to $12,000 per year, depending on their behavior. Advance Peace was created DeVone Boggan, who directed Richmond's Office of Neighborhood Safety from 2007 to 2016.

Critics of the program lambasted it for paying criminals rather than funneling tax money toward low-income residents who haven't committed violent felonies, such as single mothers or students who excel academically but are living in poverty. In Richmond — an East Bay city of 110,000 — close to 20 percent of the population lives at or below the poverty level. 

Yet the program's proponents point to its success, crediting it with helping crime rates plummet in a city that was once regarded as one of the most dangerous areas of California and the nation. Richmond's number of firearm assaults has decreased 71 percent since Advance Peace was first introduced, and more than 70 percent of participants have successfully steered clear of new firearms charges, according to the program's website

The proponents also defend the program against critics who say it's just about the money. Advance Peace also includes mentorship and peace building exercises between rival gang members. 

Tubbs, who grew up in Stockton, broke several records when he became mayor in January after defeating Republican incumbent Anthony Silva. In addition to being the city's first Black mayor, he is also the city's youngest at only 26 years old. One of his most prominent donors included Oprah Winfrey, and President Barack Obama also lent him an endorsement.

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