Project Longevity photo
A Project Longevity image of a youngster placing a candle at a shooting victim’s memorial (Project Longevity photo)

HARTFORD, CT — Project Longevity is a program that’s been reducing violent crime in Connecticut’s urban areas for five years, but without a two-year budget in place there’s no state funding for five people who have been coordinating and overseeing the successful program.

The U.S. Attorney’s office, which participates in the program that brings together law enforcement, community members and service providers to address violent crime, sent out a press release Tuesday to remind Connecticut lawmakers that the statewide coordinator, three project managers, and three service coordinators are “working without pay or assurance they will receive retroactive remuneration.”

Two of the service coordinators are no longer working on the project, which brings the number of employees currently working without pay from seven down to five.

The cost to run the program is around $850,000 a year.

“Although this small team has not been paid for months, they have not stopped working to make our communities safer. Their dedication to Project longevity does not depend on a paycheck. We hope we can keep our promises to these faithful professionals,” U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly and the Police Chiefs from Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven, said.

At the end of July, legislative leaders were asked to continue funding Project Longevity in a letter from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Americans for Responsible Solutions. The latter group was founded by former Arizona Congresswoman and shooting victim Gabby Giffords.

“The gun violence intervention and prevention strategies supported by Project Longevity are an important part of Connecticut’s overall violence prevention portfolio,” Mike McLively, director of the Law Center’s Urban Gun Violence Initiative, said. “By investing directly in evidence-based violence intervention programming, Connecticut has become a national leader and Project Longevity provides a model for other states. Now is certainly not the time to pull back on these strategies and I urge legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle to restore this critical funding source.”

In New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford — the cities where Project Longevity is active — gun-related homicides have fallen more than 50 percent from a combined 69 in 2011 to 32 in 2016.

Results in New Haven, where Project Longevity has been in place the longest, have been particularly robust, according to McLively and Robin Lloyd, director of government affairs for Americans for Responsible Solutions. “In October 2015, a group of researchers from Yale University published a formal evaluation of the impact of the first 18 months of Project Longevity in New Haven, which showed a 21 percent decrease in total shootings per month, and an impressive 53 percent decrease in gang- or group-related shootings per month that researchers found to be ‘directly attributable to’ Project Longevity.”

They said that the project has also helped create economic savings for Connecticut.

Based on the results of the Yale University evaluation, economic savings from reduced medical, law enforcement, and criminal justice costs in New Haven alone amount to approximately $7 million annually.

Every budget proposal from each legislative caucus and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has included money for the program.

Legislative leaders said Tuesday that they expect to meet again on Thursday and see if they can reach a bipartisan budget solution.

There’s still plans to vote on a budget the week of Sept. 11. However, there’s no indication the budget Democratic lawmakers, who hold a slim majority in the House, will put forward will pass. There’s also no agreement on exactly what will be in the final version of the budget.