San Bernardino police Sgt. Chris Gray chats with Rene Maldonado, 13, and Isaiah Bustamante, 11, Sept. 25, 2016 in San Bernardino. (Micah Escamilla/Staff Photographer)

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 03/12/17, 9:01 PM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> Shootings in a pair of economically distressed California cities were skyrocketing, leaving the impression of an epidemic, but analysis by California Partnerships for a Safe Community revealed relatively few people are behind many of those shootings.

Working with police and the community, the consultants found the people at risk of those shootings and developed relationships to encourage actions other than violence.

Then homicides dropped — 30 percent in Oakland, 55 percent in Stockton.

And San Bernardino — just exiting bankruptcy and with a near-record 62 homicides in 2016 — now has an agreement designed to mirror the latest chapter from those other cities.

The professional services agreement with California Partnerships that the City Council unanimously approved March 6 isn’t the first step toward implementing the program, known as Ceasefire, in San Bernardino.

For more than two years, community groups — particularly Inland Congregations United for Change, known as ICUC — have pushed the city to implement Ceasefire. Police and city officials studied and then began preparing to implement the program, with the City Council directing City Manager Mark Scott in October to pursue the contract.

The vote won’t be the last word either.

Scott warned in October that visible change — a dramatic drop in homicide rates like the 55 percent seen in Stockton — would take perhaps two years.

The next step is filling the positions that will be charged with running the program.

A job description for the civilian head, who will likely work out of the city manager’s office, is being put together now, Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said Thursday.

“Once that person is in place, they’ll start working pretty intensively with us to go over the data,” Burguan said. “The intent of the data analysis is — and we think we have a pretty good idea of this already — to drill down on what the root causes of violence are, and try to get a snapshot of who’s responsible for it or at risk of it.”

The key to that analysis is its specificity.

“Typically, if we’re trying to figure out where do we need to prevent the next shooting, we’ll focus in on groups and locations,” Burguan said. “They will try to actually identify people: John Smith, who lives at this particular location, is at risk because of that. And the outreach will specifically go to John Smith.”

In addition to the analysis, California Partnership promises to develop local capacities — through shooting reviews, meeting coordination and performance measurement — and help with communication messaging, strategic enforcement and outreach.

“This has also enabled the (Oakland Police) Department to reduce its reliance on tactics and strategies — such as gang injunctions, curfews and aggressive street-level drug enforcement — that tend to sweep African-American and Latino young men at low risk of violence into the criminal justice system with little or no public safety benefit,” California Partnership wrote in its submission to the city.

These are all invaluable goals, said Tom Dolan, executive director of ICUC, which is why the group has been marching and holding community events advocating for Ceasefire since 2015.

“I sure wish it could have happened more quickly, but I understand this is kind of a change in culture and the mentality of how we approach this issue. It does take time,” Dolan said. “We’ve been marching and requesting this for quite some time. We’re hoping that now that the decisions have been made that we can move forward quickly and with strong community representation.”

The community representation is key, though, he said, and ICUC plans to stress that in a set of recommendations they intend to give the mayor’s office Monday.

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