Marketing Approaches to Reducing Gun Violence

Police in riot gear at Ferguson protests

Ferguson. Staten Island. Pasco. Baltimore. Police mistrust and gun violence are currently dominating the headlines. Crime, health and safety, institutional transparency, accountability–all these public sector issues intersect the problems of police mistrust and guns. Could there be a marketing approach to reducing gun violence?

Reducing Gun Violence in Richmond

For years, Richmond, California was one of the most dangerous cities in America, with one of the highest per-capita murder rates. In 2005, 40 people were killed. Most of the violence sprang from turf battles between the north and south sides of the city. This ranked them number 10 in the top cities for homicide in the U.S. that year, and second in California only to Compton, the homicide capital of America for 2005.

Ten years later, Richmond enjoyed their lowest homicide rate in a generation. How did Richmond do it?

Using Marketing in Reducing Gun Violence

In previous posts, I’ve written about the 4 Ps of Marketing and the Other 4 Ps of marketing, namely people, programs, processes, and performance. I think the Other 4 are particular relevant in the public and social sectors. As described in this Christian Science Monitor article, Richmond has employed strategies in each of the Other 4 Ps to reduce violence and improve their community.

  • People: Richmond hired a new police chief from Fargo, North Dakota. Fargo is as dissimilar to Richmond as you can get. Yet the new chief showed savvy in connecting the police to the community. One key, people-oriented step: he hired a more diverse workforce that better represented and related to the community.
  • Processes: The new chief changed the process that officers used to interact with the community. Less time in cars, more time on regular beats. Less stop-and-frisk, more time interacting face-to-face with constituents.
  • Programs: A Richmond citizen founded the Peacemaker Fellowship program to change the behavior of the individuals most likely to commit violent crime. Experts estimated that 17 people were responsible or involved in 70 percent of the city’s homicides in 2007. The program targeted this audience, to change their behavior before they committed more crime.
  • Performance: As you can tell by the numbers here, Richmond has been using metrics to quantify their problems and measure their progress.

Reducing Gun Violence Means Cultural Change

Change in Richmond has taken years, and it’s not over yet. Real cultural change, change that can last, requires a long-term and systems thinking. But Richmond’s homicide rate is half of what it used to be.

Other communities have noticed the change in Richmond. The city’s police chief served on the national task force investigating the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson.

I don’t know that Richmond leaders and citizens consciously considered the Other 4 Ps for reducing gun violence. I kinda doubt it. But I do know that they addressed the kinds of questions and concerns that marketing can address, and it’s made a difference in their community. This gives me hope that other communities can be more consciously inspired by the marketing discipline in their search for less violence and more cohesion.

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