Essay: An advance for peace

City should renew program that is reducing gun violence

By Bill Knowlton

In Sacramento we have seen first-hand the challenges and pain caused by gun violence. As in most urban areas, it is experienced mostly by young people of color and their families. Gun violence has taken countless lives, changing the character of many of our neighborhoods, driving people to move elsewhere and affecting the image of the city.

To end this cycle of violence, civic and community leaders banded together to identify solutions towards making our city and neighborhoods a better place to live. National research has demonstrated that community-driven intervention partnerships have been successful in preventing gun violence. In the summer of 2017, Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the City Council unanimously voted for Sacramento to become the first city in the country to partner with Advance Peace.

Advance Peace is a nonprofit that started in Richmond with a proven track record of success, with its mission to end retaliatory gun violence in urban neighborhoods and to invest in the development, health and well-being of those at the center of this crisis.

Advance Peace began its work in Sacramento in January 2018 with a goal to reduce gun-related violence by 50% over four years. A critical victory to note is that in 2018, this collective effort has resulted in zero youth homicides for the first time in more than 35 years.

A two-year extension clause was incorporated at the midpoint of its contract with the city, to measure its performance on various indicators, including a 20% to 25% reduction.

We ask the mayor and the City Council to renew Advance Peace for two more years so we can continue our work and build on the progress that has been made in such a short time.

Bill Knowlton is executive director of the Mack Road Partnership.

As part of the four-year program, two groups of 50 young men have been identified and are enrolled in the Peacemaker Fellowship Program to receive mentorships, internships and other social services. The fellowship program has served 67 adult fellows and 35 junior fellows. Advance Peace has spent more than 3,600 hours on the streets, providing service referrals, intervention services and conflict mediation. Advance Peace has made inroads in the community through strategic partnerships with nonprofits and business groups.

Advance Peace has been building a movement to eradicate gun violence. This work starts by changing hearts, but the tangible impact of this work can be seen by everyone with fewer homicides by gun violence.

A root cause of gun violence is the lack of quality education and employment opportunities. Parallel to the anti-gun violence efforts, Steinberg has championed inclusive economic development, including more support and opportunities for our underserved communities.

Advance Peace has demonstrated results that reduce violence in affected communities and keep our young people alive. The last 24 months are steps in the right direction. We cannot stop now.

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