Report: Connecticut's Project Longevity Is Effective Tool Against Gun Violence

A new report from a gun policy group founded by former Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords highlights Connecticut’s Project Longevity as one of the most effective programs in the nation at combating gun violence.

The state-funded Project Longevity, which has an annual budget of $885,000, was launched in 2012 and operates in New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport, three cities that account for more than 70 percent of gun homicides in Connecticut. The program targets the small segment of each city’s population that is responsible for the majority of gun crime and seeks to intervene before things turn violent.

According to the report from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, homicides in New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport dropped from 75 in 2011 to 31 in 2016, a reduction of more than 50 percent. Statewide, gun homicides in Connecticut fell by 16 percent from 2010-2015 compared to a 14 percent rise nationally.

In New Haven, where Project Longevity began, the number of fatal and nonfatal shootings was cut in half between 2011 and 2016.

One example of a Project Longevity-funded program is a late-night open gym organized by Hartford Police Sgt. Steve Austin, where city teens are invited in to play basketball each Friday night from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Meetings referred to as “call-ins” are also held, where people at risk for involvement with violence are brought together and offered a plethora of social services – help finding educational opportunities, a job or housing – and also hear from people outside law enforcement about the toll of gun violence.

In the report, which focused closely on Project Longevity’s success in New Haven, L. Berta Holmes, the full-time social services coordinator for the program in that city, said she helped one client land a job at a major wholesale distributor despite 18 prior felony convictions.

“He has now joined a union, which is a big deal, and he feels like he’s made it,” Holmes said. The man completed his parole and is considered much less likely to re-offend, according to the report.

Another key piece of Project Longevity is engaging with members of the community, including clergy, to show people associated with gun violence that it is not just the police, but also their neighbors, who want the shootings to stop.

“The community here in New Haven was tired of the violence,” Stacy Spell, a retired homicide detective who is project manager of the program there, said in the report. “When you have community members acting as ambassadors for the program and raising their hands to get involved, that’s a home run every time.”

The report summed up the success of Project Longevity by saying: “With a yearly investment of less than $1 million in the Group Violence Intervention model for its most impacted cities, Connecticut is saving lives and, at the same time, millions of taxpayer dollars generated from reduced health care, law enforcement and other costs related to gun violence.”

Giffords represented Arizona in Congress when, in 2011, an assassination attempt left her gravely wounded and with a severe brain injury. She resigned in 2012 and after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School became a vocal proponent of stricter gun laws.

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