Background

Gun violence is by far the largest driver of homicides in America, the overwhelming majority of which take the form of day-to-day shootings in underserved communities.1 Black and Latinx young men living in urban neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by this tragic violence—almost 75% of America’s 14,542 gun homicide victims in 2017 were either Black or Latinx, and nearly 85% were male.2

In order to adequately address this public health crisis, we need policies that address not only the supply of guns and ease of access to firearms in impacted neighborhoods, but also the root causes of community violence. In addition to stronger gun laws, there are a number of highly effective intervention strategies that directly address gun homicides and shootings by working with high-risk individuals to disrupt cycles of violence. For more details on these strategies, see our Healing Communities in Crisis report.

Interpersonal Gun Violence in Connecticut

Connecticut has enacted some of the nation’s strongest gun laws and, consequently, has one of the lowest overall gun death rates in the country.3 Still, interpersonal gun violence in Connecticut remains an important issue, especially in certain cities. In 2017, the state endured a total of 73 gun homicides and had the 17th-lowest rate of gun homicide in the nation, which is still too high.4

Homicides in Connecticut are driven by gun violence and are highly concentrated geographically. Over 68% of homicides in Connecticut are committed with a firearm,5 and more than 60% of those killings occur in just four cities: Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury.6 As in many communities impacted by interpersonal firearm violence, African American and Latinx residents bear the brunt of the state’s gun violence crisis. Combined, these groups make up 27% of the population, yet account for more than 80% of gun homicide victims in Connecticut.7

Cycles of violence continue to take an enormous emotional, physical, and financial toll on the state and its residents. The investment required to scale up and expand lifesaving gun violence intervention strategies in Connecticut is minuscule compared to the annual costs of gun violence in the state. Including direct and indirect costs, gun violence in Connecticut costs approximately $1.2 billion annually, including costs associated with healthcare, law enforcement, lost wages, and pain and suffering.8

Connecticut’s Project Longevity and the Group Violence Intervention Strategy

Between 2006 and 2012, Connecticut faced a surge in shootings, averaging more than 86 gun-related homicides and an additional 200 nonfatal inpatient firearm hospitalizations per year.9 Gun homicides peaked in 2012 to 114—a 10-year high. This increase in serious violence led the State of Connecticut to fund and implement an evidence-based violence reduction strategy, Project Longevity, in late 2012.

Project Longevity uses the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) strategy to engage individuals at highest risk for involvement in violence and connect them with the support services they need to disengage from a perilous street life. GVI, also known as focused deterrence, has been implemented in cities across the country and is given the highest possible evidence rating by the National Institute of Justice in terms of its demonstrated impact on violent crime rates.10

The program was first launched in 2012 in the city of New Haven by Governor Dannel Malloy in partnership with the National Network for Safe Communities (NNSC), an organization committed to supporting cities that seek to implement evidence-based violence reduction strategies. Project Longevity expanded to Bridgeport and Hartford in 2013 and 2014, in order to cover the three most impacted cities in the state, which together accounted for over 70% of Connecticut’s gun homicides.11

“Even in communities with high rates of violence, only a tiny fraction of the population is at any real risk of homicides and shootings,” says NNSC’s Director, David Kennedy, one of the architects of the GVI strategy. “With this principle in mind, Project Longevity has assembled a partnership of law enforcement personnel, community representatives, and social service providers to directly engage the people at highest risk. Through face-to-face meetings known as ‘call-ins,’ the partnership communicates why the violence has to stop; the potential legal consequences for continued violence; and the forms of help available to those willing to take it.”12

Connecticut’s investment in Project Longevity has paid off, especially in New Haven, which has implemented the strategy the longest and taken the most steps to institutionalize it. As of 2017, New Haven sustained just seven homicides, an incredible 80% reduction from 2011. Overall, gun homicides in Connecticut have fallen by more than 52% since the launch of Project Longevity–from 114 in 2012 to 55 in 2016.13

Project Longevity has made a significant impact in Connecticut and at current funding of under $600,000 per year, its budget makes up a small fraction of the state’s $39 billion budget.14 With the cost of gun violence in Connecticut at $1.2 billion annually, Project Longevity has demonstrated that even a modest investment in evidence-based violence intervention strategies is both lifesaving and cost-saving.

New Haven provides an excellent example of how Project Longevity functions on the ground.

Project Longevity in New Haven Connecticut

In New Haven, the most institutionalized Project Longevity site, the program is overseen by a project manager and social services coordinator that report directly to a statewide program coordinator. With this limited staff, partnerships are important for the success of Project Longevity and are often leveraged to maximize the program’s impact.

Project Longevity staff have managed these partnerships by developing regular coordination meetings—focused on understanding and addressing local violence dynamics—that include local, state, and federal agencies, service providers, and community- and faith-based organizations.15 This has led to unprecedented levels of inter-agency coordination in Connecticut with a specific focus on reducing gun violence.

Implementation of GVI in New Haven began with a thorough analysis of crime data in the city to identify the usually small segment of the population at highest risk for becoming victims or perpetrators of violence. Then, in November of 2012, Project Longevity partners conducted the city’s first “call-in.”

Call-ins are a fundamental component of the GVI strategy and serve as a platform for law enforcement and the community to jointly deliver a credible anti-violence message coupled with a sincere offer of services and support to members of the community at highest risk for becoming involved with serious violence. Community and faith leaders, social service providers, and law enforcement participate jointly in call-ins and engage directly with victims and perpetrators of violence.

To help individuals transition to a healthier lifestyle, New Haven’s Project Longevity team works with a large number of service providers that offer services such as help finding employment, housing assistance, vocational training, and educational opportunities, among other essential services.16

Call-in invitees who choose not to put down their guns are warned that law enforcement will hold them accountable. In New Haven, the Project Longevity team also conducts smaller-scale and individualized “custom notifications,” which are one-on-one communications that follow the same format as a call-in, enabling partners to respond quickly to individual situations and deter potentially deadly conflicts.

Evaluations have shown that this combination of partnership between police and community members, focus on the highest risk offenders, and a genuine offer of social support services has had a tremendous impact on violent crime in New Haven.

Results

Since Project Longevity was implemented in New Haven, the city has undergone a dramatic change. New Haven has gone from having more homicides than any other city in Connecticut to ranking fourth in 2017, with just seven homicides that year, a remarkable reduction of nearly 80% from 2011.17 According to former Assistant Police Chief Achilles “Archie” Generoso, 2017 may have been the city’s safest year in half a century.18

Reductions in violence in Project Longevity sites like New Haven have helped the state’s gun homicide rate fall by 16% between 2010 and 2015, even as the national gun homicide rate rose by 14% over the same period.19 In 2015, researchers at Yale University spoke to the efficacy of Project Longevity after finding a 37% decrease in total shootings per month and a 73% decrease in group-related shootings per month in New Haven.20 “Three years into its implementation,” researchers noted, “our results suggest that the decrease in group-related shootings and homicides are because of Project Longevity.”21

Overall, gun homicides in the three Project Longevity cities have fallen by more than 50%—from 114 in 2012 to 55 in 2016. While New Haven has seen the bulk of this success, Bridgeport and Hartford have also experienced significant reductions in violence, although a recent uptick in these two other Project Longevity sites may be the result of recent budget cuts.

More resources and a renewed commitment by the state are needed to sustain and bolster the gains made by Project Longevity, as recent state budget cuts have created a potential threat to the program’s efficacy and sustainability.

Budget Issues

For 2018, Connecticut allocated just $550,000 for Project Longevity, which represents a substantial cut to a program that has received as much as $940,000 in recent years.22 In 2017, efforts to balance the budget resulted in dramatic funding cuts to the program. According to federal officials, cuts resulted in the statewide coordinator, three project managers, and a service provider working without pay or with reassurance of being paid retroactively. Two other Project Longevity employees were compelled to resign.23

Proposed budget cuts to Project Longevity threaten the state’s progress, while Connecticut should instead strive to meet the state’s ongoing need. Despite a significant dip in 2016, violence in Bridgeport and Hartford is back on the rise. Between 2016 and 2017, homicides in these cities increased by 52% and 38% respectively, and a new municipality, Waterbury, emerged as another source of violence in Connecticut, experiencing the 3rd-most homicides in the state in 2017.

Sustained, long-term funding is one of the keys of a successful state-level violence intervention program.24 The State of Connecticut explicitly recognized this in naming the program “Project Longevity,” but recent budget cuts endanger the program’s objectives. State funding should, at a minimum, be restored to previous levels and expanded sufficiently to allow Waterbury to implement the program.

Connecticut: Investing In Intervention

Connecticut is one of only six states investing in evidence-based gun violence reduction strategies and has become an example for statewide investment in gun violence prevention and intervention programming—especially for a smaller state where a handful of cities are driving the majority of serious violence. Strategically directing resources to these disparately impacted cities can make a significant impact.

Other states that have chosen to fund violence reduction strategies, including Massachusetts and New York, have also witnessed substantial reductions in gun violence in recent years—saving both lives and taxpayer dollars. To learn more about how states are supporting effective evidence-based gun violence reduction strategies, see our report, Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence.

Notes
  1. According to CDC data, out of 19,510 total homicides in the US in 2017, 14,542 were committed with a firearm, which is nearly 75%.“Fatal Injury Data,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), accessed October 9, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/Wisqars. ⤴︎
  2. Id. ⤴︎
  3. “Annual Gun Law Scorecard,” Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Accessed December 20, 2018, https://lawcenter.giffords.org/scorecard/. ⤴︎
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2017, on CDC WONDER Online Database, accessed December 20, 2018, http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html. ⤴︎
  5. Id. ⤴︎
  6. “Uniform Crime Reporting Program Data: Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, 2017, Table 8,” US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed October 9, 2019, https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/tables/table-8/table-8-state-cuts/connecticut.xls. ⤴︎
  7. “Crime in Connecticut: 2017,” Connecticut Uniform Crime Reporting Program, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Crime Analysis Unit, accessed December 20, 2018, https://www.dpsdata.ct.gov/dps/ucr/data/2017/Crime%20in%20Connecticut%202017.pdf. ⤴︎
  8. Calculated by Giffords Law Center. Estimates of the cost of gun violence were created using a model published in 2012 by economists at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE). PIRE is a nonprofit research organization that focuses on using scientific research to inform public policy. This model can be found at www.pire.org/documents/gswcost2010.pdf. All cost estimates were adjusted to 2016 dollars. ⤴︎
  9. “Fatal Injury Data,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), accessed Dec. 17, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/Wisqars; see also “Hospitalization Statistics,” (2006 – 2011 Hospitalization tables), Connecticut State Department of Public Health, accessed December 17, 2018, https://portal.ct.gov/DPH/Health-Information-Systems–Reporting/Hisrhome/Hospitalization-Statistics/. ⤴︎
  10. Anthony A. Braga and David L. Weisburd, “The Effects of ‘Pulling Levers’ Focused Deterrence Strategies on Crime,” Campbell Systematic Reviews 8, no. 6 (2012): 1–90, http://www.campbellcollaboration.org/lib/project/96; “Crime & Crime Prevention,” National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, accessed Nov. 20, 2017, https://www.crimesolutions.gov/TopicDetails.aspx?ID=13. See also “Community Crime Prevention Strategies,” US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, accessed Nov. 20, 2017, https://www.crimesolutions.gov/TopicDetails.aspx?ID=10. ⤴︎
  11. “Gun Facts,” Connecticut Against Gun Violence, Accessed December 21, 2018, https://cagv.org/gun-facts/. ⤴︎
  12. David Kennedy, “Forum, Project Longevity is Working,” New Haven Register, Mar. 20, 2018, https://www.nhregister.com/opinion/article/Forum-Project-Longevity-is-working-12767497.php. ⤴︎
  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), “Fatal Injury Data,” accessed Dec. 17, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/Wisqars. ⤴︎
  14. “Connecticut State Budget: Operating Expenses,” Project Longevity Line Item, Office of Fiscal Analysis, Connecticut Office of the state Comptroller, accessed Dec. 20, 2018, https://openbudget.ct.gov/#!/year/2018/operating/0/program/Project+Longevity/0/fund_type?vis=lineChart; see also “OpenBudget,” Connecticut Office of the State Comptroller, accessed December 21, 2018, https://openbudget.ct.gov/#!/year/default. ⤴︎
  15. Juliemar Ortiz, “Daily Intel Meetings Help New Haven’s Project Longevity Prevent Violent
    Crime,” New Haven Register, Oct. 10, 2016, https://www.nhregister.com/connecticut/article/Daily-intel-meetings-help-New-Haven-s-Project-11324650.php ⤴︎
  16. Ryan Flynn, “New Haven’s Project Longevity Goes Face-to-Face in Work to End Violence,” New Haven Register, Oct. 24, 2015, http://www.nhregister.com/article/NH/20151024/NEWS/151029726. ⤴︎
  17. “Uniform Crime Reporting Program Data: Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, Table 8,” (2011), US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed Dec 20, 2018, https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table8statecuts/table_8_offenses_known_to_law_enforcement_connecticut_by_city_2011.xls; “Uniform Crime Reporting Program Data: Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, Table 8,” (2017), US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed Dec 20, 2018, https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/tables/table-8/table-8-state-cuts/connecticut.xls. ⤴︎
  18. Id. ⤴︎
  19. David Kennedy, “Forum: Project Longevity is Working,” New Haven Register, March 20, 2018, https://www.nhregister.com/opinion/article/Forum-Project-Longevity-is-working-12767497.php. ⤴︎
  20. Michael Sierra-Arevalo, Yanick Charette, and Andrew V. Papachristos, “Evaluating the Effect of Project Longevity on Group-Involved Shootings and Homicides in New Haven, CT,” working paper, Institution for Social and Policy Studies (2015), https://isps.yale.edu/research/publications/isps15-024. ⤴︎
  21. Michael Sierra-Arevalo and Andrew V. Papachristos, “Focused Deterrence Strategy Reduces Group Member Involved Shootings in New Haven, CT,” Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University and the Justice Collaboratory, Yale Law School (2015), https://isps.yale.edu/research/publications/isps15-025. ⤴︎
  22. “Connecticut State Budget: Operating Expenses,” Project Longevity Line Item, Office of Fiscal Analysis, Connecticut Office of the state Comptroller, accessed Dec. 20, 2018 https://openbudget.ct.gov/#!/year/2018/operating/0/program/Project+Longevity/0/fund_type?vis=lineChart; see also “Connecticut State Budget: FY 16 and FY 17 Budget,” Office of Fiscal Analysis, Connecticut General Assembly, accessed December 21, 2018, https://www.cga.ct.gov/ofa/Documents/year/BB/2016BB-20151007_FY%2016%20and%20FY%2017%20Connecticut%20Budget.pdf. ⤴︎
  23. Jessica Lerner, “Feds: 5 Connecticut Project Longevity employees work without pay for months,” New Haven Register, Sept. 5, 2017, https://www.nhregister.com/connecticut/article/Feds-7-Connecticut-Project-Longevity-employees-12173548.php. ⤴︎
  24. Giffords Law Center, Investing in Intervention (2017), https://lawcenter.giffords.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Investing-in-Intervention-12.18.17.pdf. ⤴︎