Six Detroit organizations were selected for $700,000 grants under Detroit’s first large-scale investment in community violence intervention strategies across high-crime neighborhoods.
Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison said the $10 million “ShotStoppers” program was developed after advocacy groups that asked the city to address the root causes of crime. The groups were selected from a pool of 25 applicants. Winners were chosen based on their ability to craft a feasible strategy and demonstrate the organizational capacity to reduce violence in specific 3.5-to-4.5-square-mile areas. City officials said success will be measured by reductions in homicides and non-fatal shootings.
Federal pandemic relief dollars are funding “ShotStoppers.” The organizations include Detroit People’s Community, Near Era Community Connection and Force Detroit as well as Detroit 300, Wayne Metro/Denby Neighborhood Alliance/Camp Restore, and Detroit Friends and Family.
Each entity will have a different approach specific to their area’s needs. Minister Freedom Allah, a community liaison for Detroit People’s Community, said that their work will focus on youth engagement, working with schools to identify at-risk students and connect them to career mentorship, improve attendance and create after-school programs.
“An entire era of kids lost one to two years of socialization in schools (during the pandemic),” Allah said in an interview. “We’re seeing more development issues, we’re seeing more kids who are chronically behind. This adds to delinquency, and delinquency adds to violence. If we can interrupt that curve, we can solve the problem right at its root.”
Imhotep Blue, an attorney with Detroit 300, said the group focuses on protecting seniors, women and children who are victims of violent crime. Blue said Detroit 300 is embedded in area schools and churches. It also has relationships with people who commit crimes, and works to provide social services that deter destructive behavior.
“It makes no sense, but 30 to 40 people control a neighborhood, so you have a small sector of people responsible for allowing violence,” Blue said. “We try to get to the root of what’s going on, find out who it is and end it.”
Other grant recipients said they’ll work to provide mental health resources, teach conflict deescalation tools and squash disputes that drive impulsive violence.
“I’ve always stood firm on the belief that we have to address the root causes of violence in our city, the social issues that breed gun violence,” Council President Mary Sheffield said at a Wednesday press conference announcing the funding awards. “We’re not allowing the government to do this now, we’re leaning on organizations who are embedded in the community, who are going to build relationships. They have what we call street credibility, they know these areas and the unique needs of these ZIP codes they’re going to be working in.”
Proposed contracts will be sent to the council by the end of the week for approval later this month. Bettison said the goal is to receive approval by July 1. Community groups will have one month to ramp up their programs before the city begins measuring their performance on Aug. 1.
Each will receive a quarterly budget of $175,000 with an opportunity for performance-based bonuses. Groups will receive a $87,500 bonus if their areas experience a 10% reduction in homicides and non-fatal shootings compared to the city as a whole, plus an additional $175,000 if they achieve a 20% reduction.
“Our police department is excellent at getting the guns out of the shooters’ hands, but we’ve got to get the anger out of the shooters’ hearts,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “When I was a prosecutor 20 years ago the violence was pretty predictable, they were gang driven and drug turf driven. You look at the reports of shootings today … so much of it is anger-driven, beef-driven. In many cases individuals didn’t start the day planning to shoot somebody, but they had a gun on them illegally just in case, and a flash of anger turned into a tragedy.”
Duggan said the city initially intended to fund three to five groups, but the program was expanded after seeing the strength of proposals submitted by community groups. Duggan said his administration will ask the City Council to allocate additional pandemic relief funds to keep the program running after its first year, but did not say how much is needed.
“Every quarter they do better than the city as a whole in reducing violence, they get more money to expand their plans further,” Duggan said. “Those who aren’t doing well will adopt the strategies from those who are. … Every one of these groups is deeply plugged into our communities; they know the pain these folks are feeling, they know what’s driving the anger and the shootings. If there is anyone that can reach the hearts of our residents, I think it’s these six groups.”
Applicants also had to demonstrate their ability to comply with federal and city rules. Each organization has partnered with a fiduciary organization with extensive experience managing federal funds to support grant management and provide technical assistance.
The so-called “ShotStoppers” program is the first time Detroit has funded community violence intervention strategies to measure results and find new evidence-based approaches. Police Chief James White said this represents a unique opportunity to reduce crime.
“A large part of policing, unfortunately, is reactive,” White said. “By the time we get the call, something bad has happened. We are now able to test, in our most violent neighborhoods, the interruption of community to violence using people on the ground … who can stop this senseless violence.”