Chris Lieberman, FISM News
In the latest attempt to curb gun violence, San Francisco is instituting a program that will pay individuals deemed “high-risk” not to shoot someone.
The program, known as the Dream Keeper Fellowship, will identify citizens who are most likely to be the perpetrator or victim of a shooting and offer $300 every month as long as they are not involved in a gun crime. Additionally, participants can earn up to $200 more for completing other tasks, such as interviewing for a job, complying with parole, or attending school. Ten participants are set to receive payments when the program pilots in October, while officials hope to add another 30 by the end of the year.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed explained the intent behind the program at a Crime Prevention Summit in August, saying, “My desire is to get to them, not to just make an arrest, but to get to them and to try and figure out if they would be willing to work with us on something that is an alternative. We can’t just put them in a program without making sure that they have money, without making sure that they have something to take care of themselves.”
This program is a part of Breed’s Dream Keeper initiative, which according to Breed, is “a new, citywide effort to reinvest $120 million over the next two years from law enforcement into San Francisco’s Black and African-American community.”
All of this comes amidst a rise in gun violence in the city. San Francisco reported 119 shooting victims in the first half of 2021, more than double the number of victims in the same period in 2019 and 2020. In the same period, the city recorded 26 homicides, up from 22 the previous year.
Advocates for the program argue that this program will actually save people money. Sheryl Davis, executive director of the Human Rights Commission, said, “Six thousand dollars per person, when you look at it annually, is nothing if it helps deter criminal activity compared to the amount of money it costs to incarcerate someone, let alone the impact of the activity itself.”
Supporters also point to the success of similar initiatives, such as the program Richmond, California launched in 2010, which a study in the American Journal of Public Health credited with reducing gun deaths in the city by 55%. However, critics argue that results from other cities are less convincing. In an Op-Ed for the New York Post, Seth Barron notes:
The summary fact sheet for the Stockton [Calif.] program announces proudly that 71 percent of its 34 participants ‘are not a suspect in a new firearm-related crime.’ Similarly, the Sacramento program boasts that 44 percent of its 50 members ‘had no new arrests.’ Of course, that doesn’t account for the 17 original participants who dropped out or were arrested in the first six months. If you are tasked with keeping a busload-size cohort of young men from getting arrested for a gun crime, and count it as a success when only a dozen or so get caught, maybe you need to reconsider your definition of achievement.”
David Freddoso was also critical of the program in the Washington Examiner, calling it “cash for criminals” and stating that, “Violent criminals need jail. They do not need cash. People who shoot other people need to be walled off in prisons and kept away from the rest of us. No one deserves to be paid for not shooting people.”