New Haven’s Board of Alders convened a hearing on Tuesday to ask leaders of Project Longevity, a statewide anti-gang violence program, to produce efficacy data before the Board provides the program additional support.
Earlier this month, the New Haven branch of Project Longevity lost its New Haven director, William Mathis, after he resigned due to philosophical differences with other leaders. Though Mathis’ successor has yet to be named, Bridgeport director Charlie Grady has assumed Longevity’s state director spot after serving in its interim role for several months. Grady joined New Haven Police Department Chief Dean Esserman, city Public Safety Commission Chair and Ward 29 Alder Brian Wingate and their colleagues in city hall on Tuesday night to set new initiatives and discuss statistics that demonstrate Longevity’s effectiveness in reducing violence in Bridgeport thus far.
“They came down with some stats from Bridgeport, but I want more information about New Haven,” Wingate said. “The meeting was called because we wanted to get the data since we have some grants that we have to put forth and Project Longevity was in our minds this year. We wanted to find out what is really going on there.”
The program, founded in 2012, seeks to reduce violent crime in urban areas by allowing police to directly engage at-risk groups of people and hold entire communities accountable for a member’s crime. Longevity also hopes to affect long-term, positive change in the lives of the people it targets by offering services to connect them to work- and school-related opportunities.
Because of this, the program’s leaders chose to highlight metrics from a variety of areas to capture its success.
“I was encouraged by what I saw [out of Bridgeport],” Wingate added. “I do think that the program has had some form of impact, and we’re trying to measure that impact — is it that we’ve created more jobs? Is it that violence is down and shootings are down? I’m trying to measure it, and that’s the hard part about Project Longevity.”
At the hearing, Grady, who continues to oversee the program’s Bridgeport arm, distributed a report detailing the activity of 49 participants.
The numbers showed that, although only 13 have continued with the program since joining call-in sessions in October and July — conference calls that connect them to law enforcement and Longevity staff — 45 of the 49 have complied with good behavior conditions set forth as a result of parole and probation agreements. Longevity has shown a program-wide recidivism rate of 8.8 percent.
Grady also reported that several participants have taken advantage of the job training, advanced education and substance abuse guidance resources made available to them, attracting 11, 9 and 3 people, respectively.
Grady did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
But even with the apparent success of the program in Bridgeport, Wingate and other alders at the hearing insisted that Longevity keep similar records for all cities, including New Haven, to inform public decisions on how to best support its initiatives.
“I think the role of the city is to keep everyone honest about what they’ve been able to accomplish — you have to bring stats,” Wingate said.
He added that Esserman has committed to providing similar data to the alders in the near future. Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison said that such information would be particularly useful for the alders not on the Public Safety Committee who have not been as involved with Project Longevity, but who could vote on important issues surrounding its operation in the Elm City.
Though Esserman said that he believes Longevity to be at least partly responsible for the broader decrease in New Haven crime, he cited the NHPD’s commitment to its community policing model as equally important. He added that Longevity’s reach in New Haven could be expanded by supplementing the call-in system with in-home visits between police and program participants.
The push to increase data-sharing between branches touched upon a larger issue of communication among Bridgeport, New Haven and Longevity’s third city, Hartford. Tiana Hercules, who directs the Hartford branch, said that she was not in attendance at the hearing on Tuesday because she was not aware that the hearing was taking place.
She did, however, agree that keeping information accessible across cities is an important step in ensuring Longevity’s effectiveness.
As the newest branch of Project Longevity’s operation, Hartford has yet to accumulate the critical mass of participants to merit recording extensive statistics. Still, she said she is ready to share such data once it becomes relevant.
“It’s just a matter of time,” Hercules said. “We know who attends the call-ins and following up with everyone in a timely manner and trying to encourage them to come in and sit down so we can help them in the best way.”
Earlier this month, the state announced plans to commit $1 million in funds this year to support Project Longevity across the three cities.