Over the past few weeks, you may have heard the terms Operation Ceasefire or Savannah Chatham Ceasefire, but you may not have heard exactly what it is and does. Operation Ceasefire is a proven, community based approach to reducing serious violence.
Developed by Professor David Kennedy nearly 20 years ago in Boston, Ceasefire has been successful in cities such as Boston, New Orleans, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis, and promising efforts are currently underway in Chicago, Oakland, Baton Rouge, and many others nationwide. Advising us on the strategy is the research team at the National Network for Safe Communities, Professor Kennedy’s nonprofit organization based at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. The district attorney’s office and the police department wholeheartedly support this strategy and believe it can reduce the violence that’s harming Savannah’s most vulnerable communities.
The Ceasefire approach is based on research that shows violent crime in a community is typically driven by less than one half of one percent of the population. In Savannah, that means most homicides and nonfatal shootings can be attributed to less than 1,300 people. Ceasefire focuses on those people, most of whom are involved in street groups—gangs, drug crews, and the like. Very few of Savannah’s youth belong to nationally recognized gangs such as the Bloods or the Crips. Most of our work will focus on the loosely-knit groups that gather together, commit crime, and engage in retaliatory cycles of violence.
A central step in the Operation Ceasefire model is the “call-in,” a face-to-face meeting between group members and the Savannah Chatham Ceasefire partners. At the call-in, Ceasefire’s community members, law enforcement, and social service providers will join together to engage directly with group members and clearly communicate (1) a credible, moral message against violence; (2) prior notice from law enforcement about group consequences for further violence; and (3) a genuine offer of help for those who want it.
The key is to deliver a unified community message that the violence must stop. This is non-negotiable. Groups that continue the violence and shooting will receive the full attention of law enforcement for all crimes they may be committing. However, the members of violent groups are part of our community, and we want to do everything we can to support them and make sure that they stay alive and out of jail. For those who want to change, let’s direct them toward the resources they need to have bright futures. The offer of help includes access to services our community already has available, such as substance abuse and mental health counseling, assistance with ID and licensing, education, employment training, and many others. Savannah is home to strong organizations that provide support and outreach for those in need. Through Ceasefire, we will ensure that group members know how to contact those programs and receive priority treatment.
At the end of the first year of the strategy, most communities see a significant reduction in homicides and nonfatal shootings. We anticipate that Savannah will see the same results as other communities of the same approximate size and criminal activity, and we aim to sustain those results.
Unlike other programs that may have come and gone, Ceasefire is an approach that we intend to embed in the way we do our work here in Savannah. However, in order for Ceasefire to be successful, it will take the cooperation of people throughout our community: elected officials, community leaders, law enforcement, business leaders, faith leaders, community outreach programs, and family members. In the cities where Ceasefire has been most successful, community support has been the most important factor. We ask you to join us in supporting Savannah Chatham Ceasefire to address violence in a new way and help make our community safe.