January 8, 2017
In memory of,
As a resident of Richmond, CA, and someone who has been affected by the alleged actions of ONS members, I’m writing this letter to you, the residents of Stockton, to give you a different perspective to consider. With the upcoming City Council vote on Tuesday, 1/9, you deserve to have as much information as possible.
Advance Peace is designed to replicate a program that originated in Richmond, CA, called the Operation Peacemaker Fellowship.
The Operation Peacemaker Fellowship program was created in 2010, and is part of the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS), created in 2007, in Richmond, CA. The Operation Peacemaker Fellowship is an 18-month program that identifies young adults who tend to be involved in gun crime, and provides them counseling, social services, cash stipends and all-expense paid travel to various destinations around the world, as incentives to not get involved in criminal activity. A member of the program is called a “fellow”, and each 18-month session is referred to as a “cohort”.
Operation Peacemaker fellows can be paid a cash stipend, which is now called the “Life-Map Milestone Allowance”, of up to $1300 per month. After 6 successful months in the program, and meeting certain life-map goals, they can qualify for the financial stipend. Additionally, the fellows can experience “transformative travel” to various destinations throughout the United States and worldwide.
According to DeVone Boggan, founding director of Richmond’s ONS, the fellow’s travel partner is someone who is also in the program, and in a rival gang. Rivals are paired up so they can learn how to handle their differences without resorting to violence. The program can be repeated for another 18 months if they are successful.
The ONS doesn’t share information with the Richmond Police Department, because that would ruin the trust that has been built between the street outreach employees, called Neighborhood Change Agents, and the fellows in the program. Many people mistakenly think that the ONS is run by the Richmond Police Department. That is NOT the case. The ONS is run by the City of Richmond.
The fellows are allowed to keep their guns, in order to protect themselves.
DeVone Boggan served as Neighborhood Safety Director, overseeing the ONS, from 2007 until he resigned in March of 2016. He started his own non-profit consulting firm, called Advance Peace, so he could bring the “Richmond Fellowship Model” – meaning the Operation Peacemaker Fellowship program that was created in 2010 – to other cities throughout the United States.
Even though he resigned from the ONS in March 2016 to start Advance Peace, Boggan and his organization have been under contract with city of Richmond to oversee ONS operations since he left. His current contract expires June 30, 2018.
How does ONS/Advance Peace measure the success of their programs?
There are only three guidelines that the Operation Peacemaker program looks at to measure success:
1. Is the fellow still alive?
2. Has the fellow suffered any new firearm-related injuries?
3. Is the fellow a suspect in any new firearm-related activity?
That’s it. If the answer is YES to those three questions, success has been achieved.
ABC Nightline did a series featuring the Operation Peacemaker Fellowship program. Links below:
First Video: Aired April 6, 2016 – ABC Nightline
Second Video: Aired August 31, 2016 – ABC Nightline
Third Video: Also aired August 31, 2016 -ABC Nightline
The series features two rival gang members who are in the program. ABC follows them through some of their daily routines with the ONS. They also take a “transformative travel” trip together to New York. Throughout, DeVone Boggan explains some of the concepts of how the program works.
The two ONS fellows that were featured in the ABC Nightline series are now facing numerous criminal charges, in separate cases. One young man has been charged with 2 murders in Richmond, 3 days apart, in September 2016.
The other young man, along with 6 of his associates, has been charged with more than 30 felonies, including 3 murders in Richmond, 14 attempted murders, 2 carjackings, a home-invasion robbery, 6 armed robberies, and 4 home burglaries, along with gang and firearm enhancements. All of these crimes happened over the course of seven months, between the months of February thru September 2016.
It is unknown if his six associates were in the same ONS program, because the ONS doesn’t make the names of program members available to the public.
All 5 of the murders happened in Richmond, but many of the other crimes were committed in cities outside of Richmond. Every single crime involved guns.
What went so horribly wrong?
The cohort that they were in ended sometime in September 2016, so many, if not all of the crimes that they are accused of committing, occurred WHILE THEY WERE STILL IN THE PROGRAM.
These two young men had to have been the best examples of how the program can help change lives, otherwise they wouldn’t have been chosen to be featured on ABC Nightline. The fact that they were able to commit such a large number of violent, gun-related crimes over a relatively short period of time raises many questions about the program.
How were these two young men, that appeared to be doing well in the program, able to go completely off-track and commit so many different crimes without anyone knowing? What happened to all of the mentorship, multiple daily contacts, life-maps and other tools that DeVone Boggan speaks about when discussing how “successful” the Richmond Fellowship Model is? With all of the opportunities that are being given to them, how did they have the time to plan and carry out all of this?
What if this was YOUR child, brother, sister, parent or other family member that was murdered or affected by these horrendous crimes? Wouldn’t YOU want to know how this was allowed to happen, and have some type of accountability?
In one of the Nightline shows, Boggan refers to one of the young men as a “serial shooter” and a “hunter”. How can the residents of Richmond be expected to put their trust back into into this program after such a failure, especially when the program director uses terms like “serial shooter” to describe a participant?
The ONS knew that there were “serial shooters” on the loose in Richmond and surrounding cities, and did absolutely nothing to stop them. The result of that negligence was that five families were changed forever due to murder, not to mention the many other victims that survived attempted murders, carjackings, etc.
The ONS knew about their violent pasts and all of these crimes could have been prevented. This potentially could open up a whole can of legal worms for Richmond, ONS and possibly Advance Peace, since they have been under contract with Richmond since Boggan left in March 2016.
Where is the accountability?
I’ve spoken out about my concerns with the ONS and also about Richmond contracting with Advance Peace at many City Council meetings over the last year. Recently, one of our Richmond City Council members reached out to me and offered to help set up a meeting with other City Council members and ONS employees to discuss what could be done so that this never happens again.
Improvements to the “Richmond Fellowship Model” that DeVone Boggan wants to bring to Stockton and other cities should be considered, to ensure that that the crime spree that was allowed to happen in Richmond between February 2016 – September 2016 never happens again.
Here are a couple of ideas to consider:
1. Instead of trying to recruit the most violent youth and trying to change them, maybe they should approach semi-violent youth, who might have a better chance of this type of intervention working, BEFORE they get to the point where criminal activity has become a perfectly normal lifestyle.
2. It would be nice to see some information about what happens with the fellows after they finish the program. Maybe a study with some of the former fellows over a five or ten-year period to see if they are keeping their lives on track with no arrests, and successfully working or attending school.
There definitely needs to be more transparency and accountability in order for communities to place their trust in these types of programs.
Hello My Name is Chantee Nealy. I lost my 17 year old son at the hands of a hunter. Well that’s what Devone Boggan, the founder of Advance Peace, said. My son Chrisean had big dreams. He was on his way to LSU for Basketball. Chrisean wasn’t perfect but, he stayed focus on school and basketball. Chrisean always said, “Mama, Daddy, I’m going to go to collage and get us out of Richmond”. On August 22, 2016 my son turned 17 and was only 17 for 20 days. He thought he was safe going to his best friend’s house. Who would have ever thought that day would be his last? My son texed me at 6:30PM that day and I told him we would be on our way to pick him up. Right as we were arriving my son was killed, shot five times in front of us, brutally by the “hunter” Rice.
My advice to the people of Stockton is please don’t pay criminals for bad behavior. You would be helping them get guns and drugs. What happened to my son is proof that the program is a flop. Stop Advance Peace from fooling anyone else.