Google is searching for an answer to America’s gun-violence epidemic.
The tech giant’s philanthropic arm will grant $2 million to fund gun violence prevention programs in communities of color in 10 American cities. Most of the investment will go to programs that follow the model of Ceasefire, a violence-reduction strategy that coordinates law enforcement, community stakeholders, and social services to drive down shootings. The grants will also establish job-training programs for gunshot victims and perpetrators, and workshops for law enforcement on anti-bias policing.
Google has chosen two groups to administer the campaign: The Pico Live Free Campaign, a coalition of faith-based anti-violence organizations, and the Community Justice Reform Coalition, a violence-prevention advocacy group focusing on communities of color.
“We want to put resources in the hands of folks who are doing the most innovative work and taking big bets,” said Justin Steele, a principal at Google.org.
The participating cities are Chicago; Cincinnati; Dallas; Gary, Indiana; Indianapolis; Miami Gardens, Florida; Milwaukee; New York; Oakland; and Orlando.
Pastor Michael McBride, the director of the Pico Live Free Campaign, said $50,000 to $150,000 would be distributed to nonprofits, religious institutions, and other community organizations in each city to support Ceasefire programs. It is too early to provide details about what groups in each city would receive grants, he said.
Cure Violence has shown promise in reducing violent crime. But with its funding slashed in its home city, a few remaining foot soldiers are struggling to make a difference in neighborhoods gripped by fear.
Ceasefire is a model of violence prevention that started in Boston in the mid 1990s. In its first iteration, police targeted at-risk offenders, gun traffickers, and crime hotspots in the hopes of reducing the youth homicide rate. The program was credited with a 63 percent reduction in monthly youth homicides. In the ensuing decades, Ceasefire-style programs popped up across the county. Some modern iterations rely on community leaders to work with former gang members, victims, and perpetrators of gun violence, and social service providers to try and prevent gun-related crime.
Amber Goodwin, the director of the Community Justice Reform Coalition, said it is critical that the funding be used to empower residents in high-violence neighborhoods.
“The people who are closest to the pain of gun violence should be the people leading these efforts,” she said.
Goodwin and McBride said that on-the-ground approaches to reducing gun violence can be more effective than lobbying Congress or state lawmakers.
“Similar to how police officers are paid to prevent violence, our community members need to be resourced to help prevent it, too,” McBride said.
McBride spearheaded several anti-violence efforts in his home city of Oakland. In 2012, he partnered with law enforcement, churches, and other community organizations to launch a Ceasefire program that is credited with aiding the city’s dramatic reduction in homicides. Last year, the city recorded 79 homicides, a 43 percent reduction from 139 in 2012. Oakland has also gone two years without an officer-involved shooting after averaging one every six weeks for 20 years. McBride said he hopes to raise $20 million for his gun-violence prevention efforts over the next several years.
The success of Ceasefire Oakland caught the eye of Steele, the Google.org principal. In his three years with the organization, Steele has worked to fund data-driven solutions to racial-justice issues. In February, Google.org awarded $5 million to the Center for Policing Equity, a think tank tasked with improving law enforcement, to design a database that tracks traffic stops and use of force by police officers. Its cofounder, Phillip Goff, who works closely with McBride, recommended that Steele learn more about gun-violence prevention efforts.
“This iteration of Ceasefire and the way they’re approaching it seems to be really effective,” Steele said. “Why not empower them to be able to try this and scale up to other cities?”
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that CeaseFire Chicago uses the model of violence prevention popularized by Operation Ceasefire. CeaseFire Chicago uses the Cure Violence model.