The Baltimore mayor's office is seeking groups to launch three new outposts of the Safe Streets anti-violence program, a step forward for a planned expansion of an approach that uses people with criminal histories to try to stop shootings.
Each of the three new sites would have annual budgets of up to $500,000, according to documents released Friday.
A program that employs independent, street-wise mediators to interrupt and prevent violence in at-risk and dangerous Baltimore neighborhoods — without involving police — will be expanded from four to 10 neighborhoods and shifted from the health department to the mayor’s criminal justice office.
Once the new contracts are awarded, Bentley said, "the team will then work to fully implement each site to ensure it is operating at a high standard."
The program approaches violent crime as a disease and aims to reach young people who are beyond existing social programs.
The groups that run the sites hire former criminals who are judged to have credibility in their communities. The contract documents emphasize that new applicants must have the ability to recruit people with that experience.
Safe Streets has been praised as an effective alternative to using police to control violence, although a recent study cast doubt on earlier figures that showed the model had driven down crime in the neighborhoods where it operates. The program also saw controversy last year when employees were accused of continuing to commit crimes.
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A new study of Baltimore police strategies to combat gun violence from 2003 to 2017 has concluded the most effective was the so-called “hot spots” program that sent plainclothes detectives into violent neighborhoods to focus on illegal gun possession and individuals with a history of gun offenses.