Operation Ceasefire: Inside a Community’s Radical Approach to Gang Violence | Retro Report

Tonight, violence in Dorchester. Police say a teenage boy was killed… A shooting spree has now left three people wounded… One of the most violent weekends in the
city’s history… State Police, Boston, recorded emergency 510. My wife’s been shot, I’ve been shot…ugh. Where are you right now, sir, can you indicate to me? No, I don’t know. I don’t know. He drove… He made us go to an abandoned area. We heard it over the radio. We had a pregnant white female from the suburbs
shot in the head, and we had her husband that was shot. And he was in critical condition at the time. What’s your name, sir? Stuart, Chuck Stuart. Chuck. Yup? Hang in with me, Chuck, can you hear me? Chuck. My wife stopped gurgling, she stopped breathing. We responded to the scene. We were two of dozens of cops. A brutal attack on a pregnant woman and
her husband… There would be at least one or two shootings
a night back then. But that was a different type of shooting. We were mostly dealing with young, black males
who were involved in gangs and drugs. Here you have woman in a prenatal visit at
one of the premiere hospitals in the city of Boston, carjacked and robbed and murdered. It really exploded that maybe Boston was
an unsafe place. A nightmare story of random crime and violent
death… Millions of television viewers across the
United States listened in horror… Every day you and your family and your friends
are not victims of crime, the odds will increase you will be. We feel vulnerable because we are vulnerable. And the mayor came right out and said,
I want everybody down here. I instructed the police commissioner in the city of Boston and the police department to be as aggressive as they ever have been before. Boston Police are looking for one black male in connection… One of the most intense police manhunts
in the city’s history… Searching anyone who looks like a gang
member or a drug dealer, largely in the black neighborhoods. The efforts, investigative efforts, were
concentrated in the Mission Hill Housing Development. Stops, arrests and summonses for everything,
from drinking in public to small amounts of narcotics, because the concept was, shake
as many trees as you can until we start getting information on who committed this heinous
crime. The city was amazingly violent. Since September first, 14 murders in Boston… The neighborhood was essentially held hostage
by the drug dealers. I and a few other individuals, every day,
we would tour the neighborhood. I was on the streets the night that Carol
Stuart died. Up and down the streets you saw the blue lights. They were grabbing up young black males. When I first came to Boston to be a pastor,
I had family members and friends warn me, be very careful, stay in the communities
of color because it’s a very racist city. A massive police presence searched for
the black male… I remember driving in maybe two days after
the woman was shot and killed and seeing police officers lining up these guys from Mission
Hill. They would pull the pants down,
they would be very obtrusive in their searches. It really made me feel very fearful about
who I was as a black man. There are reports of a possible break in
the case. 39-year-old William ‘Willie’ Bennett is
considered a prime suspect… He was an individual who had been involved
with law enforcement many times. Violent crimes, armed robberies, things like
that. The initial information was that his nephew
was kind of spouting off in front of a couple of other teenage males, saying, yeah, it
was my uncle Willie that killed those two white people. He’s just a mad dog running amok and
society has to be protected here. It was all this media about
how dangerous the inner city is. It was almost tied into the character of,
of, of black people. The number of police officers that were
assigned to the investigation was something that you would never see in the Mission Projects. There was a lot of feedback from the community
that, wait a minute, we’ve got a lot of, African-American kids being shot
around the city. How come we never got this kind of response
before? And they were right. You had this confluence, where you had
all of this violent activity happening within the inner city, and you had the racial issues
that we had to deal with on top of that. Last October… And the Charles Stuart case, that sort of put that on grand illustration. There is an unsettling mystery tonight
surrounding Boston businessman Charles Stuart. I received a phone call from someone that
Charles Stuart just jumped off the bridge and, and that he’s dead. And I was like, you’re kidding me. Yesterday afternoon, there was a dramatic
turn of events which focused on Mr. Charles Stuart as a suspect. There had been, we were now told, no black
gunman after all, no robbery. A racially charged murder that had police
frisking young blacks at random and legislators crying for the death penalty was instantly
transformed into an ugly domestic killing. It made unavoidably obvious what people
had been saying all along, which was when there’s even a suggestion that a black man
may be involved, the rules change. [Sirens] Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan have been
hit by a series of shootings, stabbings and beatings. Two teenagers were gunned down near a Roxbury
playground… Violence started to careen out of control
in the late ’80s. It was just shooting happening all over the
place. And we were doing as clergy more funerals
of teenagers. Boston has seen an horrific increase in
the number of violent crimes committed by and against its young black men. Increasingly these crimes are being committed
by children. Teenage gangs. And you can go to any emergency room and you
would see, on gurneys, young black men, usually, Latino men, dying. When we moved into Four Corners we had no idea that young men had held the neighborhood hostage. The majority of adults were terrified by the
neighborhood. The city of Boston and the police department
was denying that we had a gang problem. The intelligence unit at that time was concentrating
more on the traditional mafia or Irish gangs. And nobody was really keeping track of these
street gangs. This kid’s saying you shot him. So if you didn’t shoot him you better have
[beep] something to say to me. These are kids between the ages of 16 and
24 that played basketball together, went to middle school together, and all of a sudden
were shooting back and forth. We seem to be locking up the same individuals
over and over again. We were making numerous arrests for drugs
and guns. The judge would set conditions of probation
such as curfews. How come you’re out this time of night? Huh? I don’t know. Just chilling. But that was kind of the end of it for us because it wasn’t our job to check on those conditions of probation. It was the probation officers’. I kind of get the feeling from you that
it’s my fault that you’re here and that’s not true. The kids would come into the office, and
they’d be talking about things that they had done at night. All we had to do was ask questions, are
you doing okay? Yeah, yeah, yeah. We only worked 8:30 to 4:30. That’s all we had to do. 4:30, get in your car and go home. You had some of our more violent offenders
that nobody was checking. We’re just going to keep doing it and
doing it and doing it and doing it. Ain’t no stopping us. The gangs use street names: Humboldt, Intervale,
Castlegate. I grew up on Castlegate. It started off as just a bunch of friends. They would call us doughboys because that’s
what we wanted to do, get money, look cute for the girls. We started selling weed and we got involved
with these guys from New York. And they showed us we could corner the market
with this new drug called crack. This is one of the main areas we hung in… You ever been to a Stop and Shop right
before a snowstorm? And it’s a long line? That’s how it was for crack. They came and they came. You can imagine, I’m still young. That was the most money I’ve ever seen in
my life. We got involved with somebody from New York
who got us guns. We had protection. In our little world, we was on top of it. Romero Holliday was public enemy number
one at one time up on Castlegate Road. Sold drugs, very violent. There was ongoing feuds at the time between
the Castlegate crew and the crew up at Humboldt Ave. Every day we went up there and we shot
at them. Every day. We would literally, did you go up there
today? No? Come on let’s go up there. Every day. What did we call it? Putting them on the schedule. And we used to say, you want to put them on the
schedule too? If you mess with me, if you deal with me,
If you hurt me, I’m going to hurt you and anybody else that deals with you. We were having broad daylight shootings,
there was a number of innocent people caught in crossfires. Darlene Tiffany Moore was a young girl who was
sitting on the mailbox, at the corner of Humboldt and Homestead and caught a stray round hitting
her in the head and killing her. Her mother had sent her down South to avoid
the violence that was happening in the community. And she had come up to visit her mother. And this one visit, she was killed. We were there on scene first and watching
the life flow out of a 12-year-old little girl, you’re thinking, you know, this is a
child that lives in the same city that my son lives in. And, you know, it’s just unacceptable. What’s going on in this city, and particularly
in district B, is open warfare. We pay our taxes, we do our work, we send
our kids to school, now we’re demanding equal protection under the law. We thought like everybody else that this was a generation that was going to be lost to jail and violence… An 11-year-old boy… and that they were hopeless and that the only
method that we needed to deal with them was through enforcement. Police have begun to stop and search suspected
gang members for weapons. Everybody get your [bleep] hands on the
wall! Yo, I live right there. Everybody get your hands on the wall. I know where you live. We were taking weapons off the street and
getting cases on people that were selling drugs. I made it my business during that time,
often, if I was driving home and I saw the police questioning somebody, I’d get out. We don’t play. Spread your [beep] legs. It was very loud, very aggressive in many
cases. …disturbing allegations of cops arbitrarily
pulling down people’s pants… There were people within the community
who supported it. The problem is all kinds of innocent kids
who had nothing to do with it got swept up in it as well. We’re all just either perpetrators or potential
perps to you. That’s all we are. I need to talk to you. A growing number of young people would
come to me asking for assistance because I was doing outreach. And so I started visiting the court five days
a week advocating for kids. I remember walking by the courthouse, and he’d
look at us, we’d look at him, and he’d, pfft, and we’d, pfft him back. It was us against them. I had received reports that the police
had circulated the rumor that I was actually a drug dealer. This black clergyman was selling drugs in
the black community. The police department was dealing with
racial issues… The prime suspect… …that culminated when Charles Stuart killed his wife and blamed it on a black man. It felt like the final straw. We’ve got a toxic racial dynamic happening
right here, and there’s no denying it. There’s no getting around it. …you have dealt us an injustice. Anger is too mild a word for what these
black community leaders expressed today. This time, however, the night riding was not the
action of white-robed bigots, but instead the actions of a mayor, Mayor Raymond Flynn, who so quickly
jumped to conclusions. It was so blatant. It was played out in real time. And the whole nation was watching. The most disturbing findings are those
of public strip searches. There is no excuse for forcing young men to
lower their trousers or for police officers to search inside their underwear on public
streets and hallways. By 1990, the shootings and murders had
increased. The stop and frisk resulted in more
seizures of firearms, resulted in more arrests, more incarcerations. It didn’t change the violence one bit and
the relationships with the African-American community and the police was deteriorating
quickly. We were kind of like shoveling sand against
the tide and it was like nothing’s getting better. It’s getting worse. Kids are dying all hours of the day. Kids that are on probation. I had 65 kids shot to death in five years. Shot to death, and they were all one color,
and nobody cared. A young man that I had had on probation was
shot to death. And his mom, said, why did you let them
kill my baby? And she started to vent, and she started to
hit me. I let her, I let her. And afterwards, I thought, you know, she was
right. She was right. I thought I needed to understand the culture
that all this violence is coming out of. And it became clear to me that no matter how many
programs I would build for youth to come into the church, they weren’t coming in. I was working with some other ministers
who also felt a real concern about what was happening with young people. The event I think
that really crystallized it for a lot of us was the Morning Star incident. A funeral at a church very much involved in
the community was crashed when some of the guys lost it when they saw somebody from a
rival gang. And a massive fight and turmoil breaks loose
in the church, turning the complete service out and terrorizing everyone in the church. A boy was stabbed nine times before a shocked
congregation. The message I thought that Morning Star
gave was we had to come out of the four walls of our sanctuary and meet the youth where
they were. Every Friday night, we were in the street. In the most violent neighborhoods, to see
clergy doing patrols was a big deal. You had never seen black clergy patrols in
the City of Boston. But what we found out as we were walking the
streets, that the youth weren’t the only people watching us. We would pass Reverend Ray Hammond, Reverend
Eugene Rivers, Reverend Jeff Brown. And at night time, the black clergy and the police
were the only adult males that were really out there in the community. So we started to have meetings with them,
not about the state of policing, or anything like that, but it was about the neighborhoods. Jeff Brown became a fixture in our building. Gene Rivers was a fixture in our building. We said, hey, we got to try something
different. These kids all wanted to please their probation
officers because violation of probation meant they could be incarcerated. Probation officers didn’t work nights, and
the police officers didn’t have the jurisdiction to knock on doors checking conditions of probation. And we said, look, we want to have the probation officers
start riding with us at night. While police have constitutional restraints
on conducting searches, probation officers do not. Is Antwon home? Do you have anything that I don’t want to find? Do you have a stash in here or anything? If they weren’t home or if they were in
places where they weren’t supposed to be we were going to get them violated so we could
get them off the street. How are ya? You came just to walk your girlfriend home? The longer we were out there, the more
I learned about the nature of, nature of the neighborhood. How long do you think it’s going to take
you to get home? 10 minutes. Oh I think less the way your heart’s
beating now. Right? When you went into the houses, you know, you learned
that they might be all that out on the street, but at home they were the ones putting food
on the table, making sure the younguns get up for school. So we started to get a bigger picture of that
this wasn’t a group of lost souls. It was always separate. Now all of a sudden, we’re joined. And what we were doing is we were exchanging
names, information and intelligence. And then we were working with David Kennedy
from Harvard. I decided to try to do something practical
to try to figure out what was going on with the killing in Boston and what if anything
might be done about it. There was this quite amazing coalition that
had come together. It was Boston cops, prosecutors, probation
officers and outreach workers. We put a city map of Boston on a table and said start somewhere and show us where these crews are and how they’re operating. And we confirmed what they already knew. It was kids who were perpetrators one day,
victims the next, and all heavily involved in the criminal justice system. So, really, at the end of the day it was a
small group that were driving the majority of violence. And if the police department didn’t know them,
probation knew them. Among all of us, we knew every one of them. Every crew has one or two people who really
drive things. This is Humboldt buddy. It was maybe 300 people. …Active street gangs… The political and media discourse had been
about these massive issues — the crack epidemic cultures of violence and what this said was,
look, this is 300 people whose names we know. And suddenly it began to seem like you could
maybe do something. The Youth Violence Strike Force had done this
operation on a group in Dorchester. We wanted those guns taken off the street. And we just said, look it, we’re
going to be down here until the violence stops. We’re going to make your life miserable. We’re going to use every legal lever possible
to shut you down. And the most important thing is that you were always following it up with, it’s not about the open beer that I’m arresting you; it’s about the violence. They said to them, you want this to stop? Put your guns down. And members of this crew actually delivered
brown paper bags of guns to the steps of the gang unit. We took that and we built it into
a violence prevention strategy. What do we do? Let’s bring them in the courthouse. What are we going to do? We’ll talk to them. We’re tired of seeing kids buried. We’re tired of the violence. A number speakers would get up and talk.
We are here to tell you that if the violence doesn’t stop we will be bringing the full
authority of the government down on you. But we also were delivering a message that
if the violence stops, there are other options for you. And we will help you to get back into school
to get you some job mentoring to get you out of this lifestyle. We know who you are, we know what’s going on. Do you want to spend the rest of your life
in a federal prison? Your choice, your decision, make a smart one. We’ll help you, but you’ve got to meet
us halfway. This isn’t about locking kids up. This is about you growing up. This is about you giving the opportunity to
be the best you can be. There were a small number of people that
needed to be taken off the street for everybody’s good. Issues of crime are too big for the police
alone. I looked at the clergy as a measurement of
are we doing things in the right way from a different perspective. It wasn’t a popular thing because people
would feel you’re a minister, and you should believe that every
child should be saved. And I would say in response, I believe
that with all my heart, every child should be saved. It’s just that for some kids, they
need a prison ministry. And we’re all standing here together… The clergy was the same message we delivered. Except they would add the caveat, we love
you. We’ll help you if you let us and we’ll
stop you if you make us. Go out there and tell your friends. And they stopped. How you doing, man? How you doing Pastor Hammond? How’s everything? Pastor Hammond would say you guys ain’t, you ain’t that bad. You just made bad decisions. And he made us understand that it wasn’t
nothing wrong with being wrong. It’s staying wrong. We’re serious about this… Then he was like can you can come to my church
you can visit me, you can call me anytime you want. Giving out his number. Whenever he came around he would ask about
me and that meant a lot. We got Romero working with MDC. and when we were all playing hockey with the police
team, Romero was the kid driving the Zamboni and we’d have our hockey bags carrying them
over to the bench with guns in them. And you know, Romero would like, oh, just
leave them there. I’ll watch them for you. I think it took a lot just to trust that
much of me, them knowing how I was showed me that they seen something in me that I didn’t
see. So maybe I’m not the monster everybody thought
I was. One of my low points was this Tiffany Moore
situation. It was my call that made us go up there every
single day and shoot at these people. I didn’t directly go up there and do it. You get what I’m saying. If I knew the right decisions and the right
calls to make, none of this would have ever happened. Some people are calling it the Boston
miracle. A city once torn apart by racial tension and
violence is now a model for crime prevention. Boston… We became the national poster children
for successful programs. Zero tolerance policy on guns… ABC came, CBS came, NBC came. Youth gun crime is an epidemic. Media, when they like to tell stories,
they like to do it through the lens of like one person, or one life. A program to check juveniles on probation… They would say it was probation visiting
people at home. It was federal prosecution for gun crimes,
the black ministers talking directly with guys on the street. The big picture was lost. It was putting them on notice that the violence
was going to bring comprehensive legal attention, it was moving in social services. And it was moving in what we call the community moral
voice. What really made Boston special was really everybody
being very willing to work with one another. Boston proves that we can take the streets back
of our country. But when Bill Clinton came to Boston, when
Newsweek came a calling, things started to sort of shake the Coalition. I was in the grocery store, and I look at
the checkout and I see Gene Rivers’ face, you know, at every single checkout counter. And I remember going into Dorchester to see Eugene,
and Eugene was wearing sunglasses like inside, and he was referring to himself in the third
person. And, you know, it, it just changed And, you know, it, it just changed everything. Reverend Eugene Rivers is on the frontlines… One of the unavoidable aspects of all movements
is that somebody’s going to end up being the signature person. That’s a fairly standard thing, right? As the mythology about the Boston Miracle
grew, there was this vicious fight for credit. Everybody stood up and said I’m responsible
for this. There started to be resentments amongst
the clergy, the police, probation, within each individual group. It wasn’t about the violence. It was about marketing, if you will, and then
some people made their careers off of it. From the clergy to academia, to the police. We sort of lost sight, lost our way, it
stopped being a movement. All of us underestimate the difficulty
of maintaining collaborations and partnerships just in general, with or without media attention,
with or without dollars involved. 150 homicides will focus you. It’s harder to keep focus when it’s down
to 30. This is the fourth shooting in Kalamazoo
this weekend. Nine people have been shot here in the
city in the last five days. Again three homicides… 2014 was when we had our highest number
of shootings. Community relationships between law enforcement
and people in neighborhoods aren’t really good. So we won’t get cooperation, we would get
no information on the shooter. And we had a 13 year old kid that was shot
and killed. It was the second time the 13 year old
was shot in six weeks. He got hit in the back by gunfire on April
6th but nobody was arrested. Traditional policing methods did not prevent it. And so we said, what can we do to do something
different? We have several shootings to discuss… And that’s really the community came to us and said,
hey you know, are there other things? And someone heard about the David Kennedy
model. I run the National Network for Safe Communities. And one of our convictions is communities
need policing. They just don’t need the kind of policing
they’ve been getting. People deserve not to be afraid of the state. In the most dangerous places hardly anybody
is dangerous. And there are ways to engage them that can
be very effective. We looked at the guys who were actually
pulling the trigger and we came up with 22 individuals out of the entire city. We talked to those individuals. We know who you are, but in turn we also provide
them with phone numbers and names of people that can help them. I bring understanding to the room because
I sold a lot of drugs, did a lot of violence and I’m telling them, the cops know who
you are, man and they want you to make a decision. I’m here to offer you a way out. And sometimes you need a person like me to explain that. A lot of times people have never had a
positive contact with a police officer. They’ve never had someone show up at their
door and say I really want to see you get a job I really want to see you be successful. Here we are six months after, none of them
have been arrested for an act of violence. That was shocking. When I started I was the poster child for
traditional policing. You know you need to stop cars and you need
to get guns off the street and you need to get drugs off the street. Drug dealers off the corners. That’s what we did. Hi. Nice to meet you. The hardest thing with any law enforcement
is just changing a culture of an organization. If you just do traditional policing you start
to get jaded to think that everybody in this neighborhood is a bad person. Everybody in this neighborhood is a criminal
because that’s all you’re dealing with. So you’re good at geometry? I never thought that I would be where I am
now where we spend more time building those relationships and working with the community. It changes the way you look at your neighborhood. You start to realize 99-percent of the people in this neighborhood are good folks. Lots and lots of cities are doing it now. But there is no national strategy to address
what we now know is addressable. Have a great day, man. Alright? It’s not perfect. It’s actually relatively easy to put something
like this together, it’s very difficult to keep it going. We know things that make a really big difference. And it was Boston that created that understanding. We built relationships. There was a level of trust that was earned
over time. My boss, I figured out, was the neighborhood. I worked with the Chief, I worked with the
Commissioner. But I worked for everybody I didn’t know. That was the flip for me. The miracle was not that the crime rate
went down. The miracle was that the adults figured out
how to collaborate in the interest of the young people. That was the miracle.

  1. This is an amazing series! I hope you guys don't get discouraged by low views, these are stories that need to be heard so history doesn't repeat itself

  2. i watch these channel every night because the quality of you're work is great more people
    need these and all the other pieces you guys make.

  3. That was awesome. I hope more cities are able to do the same. we hear too many stories of police violence on minorities, and instead we need police to get to know the community.

  4. This is by far the best video that I have ever seen . And what a great response by so many people coming together and healing / helping the community . . Thank you for putting this video out in the world n and thank you to all the people in Boston who has shown. The world. . This is how it's done .
    Much respect and thank you again to all of you♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡

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