STOCKTON, Calif — The controversial anti-gun violence organization Advance Peace Stockton is being recognized as a catalyst to reducing gun violence.
"It's just a very difficult very, very controversial group of people to work with. But, with a little attention, a lot of effort and focused management of resources into those areas we pretty much seen a drop in the number of engagements that the young men are involved in," says Nuri Muhammad, Director for Advance Peace Stockton.
The City of Sacramento adopted an Advance Peace program in 2017, a year later Stockton's City Council also adopted the program.
According to a study by UC Berkeley's Center for Global Healthy Cities, from October 2018 thru September 2020, gun violence in Stockton dropped by 21%. Similar results took place in Sacramento where gun homicides and assaults fell by 22%, according to a March 2020 UC Berkeley study authored by the same public health professor, Jason Corburn.
In Del Paso Heights, a community prone to gun violence, numbers dropped by 39%, according to the same 2020 study.
According to the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, a shooting injury costs taxpayers $962,000 and a gun homicide $2.5 million in 2019 and 2020. The Berkeley study credits Advance Peace for preventing gun injuries or death in 15 firearm incidents in Stockton, saving taxpayers between $14 million to $37 million dollars.
Advance Peace works, in part, by not working with police and instead focusing on communities dealing with gun violence and offering them outreach, service referrals and building trust. The group uses so-called "Neighborhood Change Advocates," who speak one-on-one with those prone to gun violence.
Former gang member Burnice Redic is an advocate. ABC10 spoke to him about a year ago.
"I leave comfortable with the fact that they can't say that they didn't know, because I told you," said Redic.
The study also found Advance Peace Stockton interrupted 44 gun violence conflicts and mediated over 500 community conflicts.
However, Advance Peace is not without controversy.
Founded in Richmond in 2010, part of its program provides donated money to street influencers or who the program refers to as "fellows."
The organization says so far no money has been handed out in Stockton and instead, more than a third of the 34 Fellows recruited in the program got new jobs.
"They spend a significant amount of time, you know, just reaching out on a regular basis to those that are in the community," said Toni McNeil of community outreach group Faith in the Valley.
Muhammad says the Stockton Unified School District should have specialized trauma counselors on hand to aid those impacted by gun violence.
When ABC10 reached out to the school district for comment, they replied saying, "we will not be responding to the inquiry."