In 1992, the murder rate climbed to 76 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The murders primarily sparked from the gang and drug violence in low-income African American communities. As a result, community activists and philanthropists rose to defend the communities.
Problems and Purpose
Stop the Violence Organization was created in 1991 to raise awareness of the urgent need for public safety in the inner-city areas in the central part of Arkansas, specifically in the Central High and South End Neighborhoods.
Background History and Context
Little Rock, has a history of legally enforced racial segregation which has influenced economic under-development in historically African American neighborhoods in the city. As a result of the gang violence, rose to defend the communities being tragically affected by the gang violence and drug infestation in the inner cities of Little Rock, Arkansas. Stop the Violence organization and Reaching our Children and Neighborhoods- R.O.C.A.N decided to mitigate the problem by creating spaces for the community to come together and enact sustainable solutions to the violence.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
R.O.C.A.N. founded in 1992 as a child mentoring program that provided meals, tutoring, and mentorship to at-risk youth that were natives to that area at the time. This organization partnered with other local organizations such as the Y.M.C.A. and local churches to create a sustainable mentorship that would allow children not only to have their voices heard, but also to be active within their community by engaging in sports, plays, and community events.
Stop the Violence Organization Started in 1991 to raise awareness of the urgent need for public safety in the inner-city areas in the central part of Arkansas, specifically in the Central High and South End Neighborhoods. During the gang wars in Little Rock, Arkansas, this organization focused on providing extracurricular activities for students after school to keep them motivated, inspired, and, most importantly, out of harm's way. The founder Reverend Benny Johnson is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas and considered his work with the organization a personal passion and public need mainly for the youth that were the most affected demographic involved in the unfortunate events caused by the gangbanging that created feelings of mistrust and fear within their communities.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Both Stop the Violence, and R.O.C.A.N. members are populated by community activists, ex-gangbangers, and model community members. R.O.C.A.N. was headed by Lefiel Jackson and three other stakeholders that served as mentors and tutors in the organization. Jackson's wife also played an active role by serving as a financial advisor and a food supply administrator. R.O.C.A.N. collected its participants through its target group, which are at risk teenagers living in the Central High neighborhood. All activities were open to anyone who wanted to participate. The recruitment process of these organizations was open selection to all.
Methods and Tools Used
The building of social capital, similar to the Asset Based Community Development model, was adopted to bring social cohesion within the neighborhoods themselves. This method brought the community together and compelled them to look at the issue of violence in the eyes and experiences of children in the neighborhoods and the effect it was having on the future of these violent gang areas. Some neighborhoods were historic communities, so they reminded residents of the importance of self-sustainability and self-protective lifestyles.
R.O.C.A.N. hosted local "Park days" whereby they provided food for communities and spoke on the broader issues of the inner cities of Little Rock to bring the community into social cohesion.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
"To combat the gangs, the city invested in prevention, intervention, and treatment programs. It beefed up its police force, employing a policy of "zero tolerance" across its black neighborhoods. Eventually, the city landed some of the key gang leaders in prison, through a series of federal prosecutions, the economy improved and the violence started to taper off. In 2010, homicides reached a low of 25 . Many of the gang leaders actively involved in the violence at the time were given long sentences in prison, which gave the affected communities room and space to grow from the crime rates and drug addictions. The Zero tolerance policy gave the community a sense of accountability as it related to the crime issues, the youth became a real reason for conflict management in this process as well.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Through zero-tolerance methodology, a broader set of goals were created for the communities, which lead to a lowering of murders by the end of 1999. Some of the gang members released from prison became community activists and joined forces with the community that was affected so long by their notorious gang activity.
Fuchs, C. (2018, February 24). Back in the Hood: Gang War 2. Retrieved from https://www.popmatters.com/back-in-the-hood-2496234258.html
Thomason, T. (2017, November 16). A Look at "Bangin' in Little Rock" 25 Years Later. Retrieved from https://www.fox16.com/news/a-look-at-bangin-in-little-rock-25-years-later/
Strachan, M., & Manley, M. (2018, June 4). 'We're Having Gang Wars All Over Again'.
Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/little-rock-gang-violence_n_59b816c5e4b02da0e13caf85?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAHoTJ6XSRpejCUkBK-almTTeOZfIYkUqKUzG8lNvvhOdK12bEO6MRRm6PhGmu3VuDwIxU7S8mGY9sJx-TUjVOclQnm7ydgkZ4BW3ol0G86MYOOfAIzvjjycqYW9lYuDhuXDNyc34VPbKV3HGPnv6gcPGQgTFkaMt-A8ZmrGsx95C
The first version of this case entry was written by Tim Campbell, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and then edited. The views expressed in the entry are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.