Courtesy of Project Longevity

At the beginning of this month, retired New Haven Police Department Assistant Chief Archie Generoso was appointed the new statewide director of Project Longevity.

The project began in New Haven in 2012 in collaboration with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut. It has since expanded its efforts to Bridgeport and Hartford. Project Longevity aims to reduce serious violence through a combination of community involvement, social services and focused policing. Generoso takes over at a crucial time for the project as the pandemic places restrictions on its services.

“I like to say that there’s no bad neighborhoods, only very few people within those neighborhoods that do bad things, and that’s who we’re focusing our attention on,” said Generoso in an interview with the News.

Generoso, who first joined the NHPD in 1975, also served 15 years as an investigator with the state prosecutor’s office. He re-joined the department in 2011 and worked as the assistant chief of the NHPD from 2012 until he retired in 2018. This month, he came out of retirement to replace Brent Peterkin as the project’s director. During his time at the NHPD, Generoso worked as a liaison between the department and Project Longevity.

According to Stacy Spell, Project Longevity’s New Haven program manager, the project uses a model based on a Group Violence Intervention strategy developed by the National Network for Safe Communities. This model relies on two key forms of outreach: “call-ins” and “custom notifications.”

The call-ins, which primarily reach individuals who are in the parole or probation systems — and therefore already under the supervision of the police department — consist of large group meetings. Attendees are given the opportunity to speak with a variety of interest groups at the meetings, such as law enforcement agencies, victims of gun and gang violence, and community organizations that support formerly incarcerated individuals.

The custom notifications, on the other hand, target individuals who are on the radar of the police department as potential perpetrators of violence. Spell described the process of identifying those individuals by knocking on doors and speaking to them directly in a non-confrontational manner. Spell added, “It is a process done with love.”

For Generoso, the statistics speak to the success of these methods. According to Generoso, the number of non-fatal shootings has dropped by more than half from an annual average of 126 between 2003 and 2011 to an annual average of 61 in the six years after the project began.

In an interview with the News, Chaz Carmon, president of Ice the Beef — a New Haven-based nonprofit aimed at curbing gun violence — said he believes that the project could benefit from greater connectivity with the New Haven community.

“I think they can probably use more community people because a lot of the people in the project are cops, old cops,” Carmon said.

He emphasized that he thought Project Longevity was doing a “great job,” but added that “we can always do more.”

Generoso’s appointment as project director comes at a crucial time. The project, which relies heavily on in-person interactions to connect with individuals involved in gun violence, has been hindered in its outreach efforts due to the pandemic.

According to Generoso, COVID-19 has put a “damper” on many of the project’s initiatives. The call-ins have been most affected, he said, noting that neither Bridgeport, Hartford nor New Haven have held a call-in in over a year due to the pandemic.

Generoso, who has previously only worked with Project Longevity in New Haven, said that his current challenge is getting to know the communities and police departments in Hartford and Bridgeport.

New Haven’s chapter of Project Longevity was founded in November 2012.

Vanika Mahesh | vanika.mahesh@yale.edu