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Is San Francisco Paying Criminals $300 a Month Not to Shoot People?

Claim

San Francisco is going to pay people $300 a month to not shoot other people.

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On September 8 2021, the unreliable Daily Wire published an item headlined, “San Francisco Is Going To Pay People $300 A Month Not To Shoot Others.” The outrage-baiting headline worked; soon it appeared atop Trendolizer.com’s “trending” list.

The piece began by citing Fox News:

In an attempt to reduce violent crime, San Francisco, California will launch a program that will pay people $300 a month if they don’t shoot someone.

Fox News reported that the program, called Dream Keeper Fellowship, “will pay 10 individuals who are at high risk of being on either end of a shooting $300 each month to not be involved in such crimes.” This means that people at high risk of being shot also qualify for the program, though it’s unclear how the determination is made. The program will launch in October.

Oddly, the Fox News claim in question was old. It was published a week prior (on September 1 2021, “San Francisco will pay people to not shoot others: ‘Cash for criminals'”), and it too credited yet another outlet for the aging “scoop”:

San Francisco is rolling out a pilot program that will pay high-risk individuals to not shoot anyone as gun crimes tick up in the city.

“These small investments can transform the lives of individuals, but they can also transform communities,” Sheryl Davis, executive director of the Human Rights Commission, told Newsweek.

The Dream Keeper Fellowship will pay 10 individuals who are at high risk of being on either end of a shooting $300 each month to not be involved in such crimes.

On August 31 2021, Newsweek‘s “New San Francisco Initiative to Pay Individuals Not to Shoot Others” reported:

A new program in San Fransisco will pay people at high risk of shooting someone not to pull the trigger to help alleviate rising gun violence in the city.

The Dream Keeper Fellowship is set to launch in October [2021] and pay 10 individuals $300 each month to not be involved in shootings, Sheryl Davis, executive director of the Human Rights Commission, told Newsweek in an interview [on August 31 2021].

Davis explained that the program is not “transactional,” but will rather focus on making investments in communities most impacted by violence.

A subtle shift between the headline (“San Francisco Initiative to Pay Individuals Not to Shoot Others …”) and reporting (” … pay 10 individuals $300 each month to not be involved in shootings”) was evident in that case. Subsequently, Newsweek mentioned the program being funded through the “Dream Keeper Initiative,” but the story did not clarify whether the two names referenced the same funding source:

The program is based on a similar program in neighboring Richmond, California, which helped reduce gun homicide in the city by 55 percent, according to a 2019 study by the American Journal of Public Health.

It’s being funded through the Dream Keeper Initiative, which is San Fransisco’s effort to redirect funding into the Black community. The initiative supports a variety of programs, including an art complex, youth development and education, guaranteed income programs, and homeowner promotion says Mayor London Breed’s office.

Despite the headline focusing on the $300 payments, the article itself was suspiciously vague on mechanics aside from that mention of the sum:

Participants will be paired with life coaches from the city’s Street Violence Intervention Program and will be considered “community ambassadors” who work to prevent violence. They will work on their professional, personal, and community development and will be thought of as “partners” in engaging community members and decreasing violence.

[…]

There are opportunities for participants to earn an additional $200 each month as they work to improve their community. Some ways they can earn more are by working, going to school and even being a mediator in situations that could lead to violence.

Unsurprisingly, the trail of $300 payments to people “not to shoot others” in San Francisco started to go cold before the Newsweek article — but searching for mentions of either the “Dream Keeper Fellowship” or “Dream Keeper Initiative” prior to late August 2021 led to official material from the City of San Francisco on the broader initiative being described as “$300 not to shoot people.”

A May 2021 press release, “Mayor London Breed Announces Awards for Black and African American Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs as part of the Dream Keeper Initiative,” announced the allocation of $3.75 million for the program:

“This funding represents an investment in the community and addressing the wealth and opportunity gaps created by years of biased policies and approaches,” said Sheryl Davis, Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. “There is tremendous talent and potential that has been stifled by our biased policies and strategies, through this process we will see the implementation of creative and innovative programs that have the potential to support and benefit all of San Francisco and not just the Black community.”

The funding touches on critical aspects of San Francisco’s diverse economy, focusing on advancing equity and shared prosperity for all by investing in African American small businesses, entrepreneurs and communities. COVID-19 has further shed light on these inequities and has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities.

The $3.75 million includes the following economic development and recovery programs with services delivered to Black and African American small businesses, entrepreneurs, and the community …

[…]

The goal of the Dream Keeper Initiative is to improve outcomes for San Francisco’s Black and African-American youth and their families, and will provide family-based navigation supports to ensure that the needs of all family members are addressed cohesively and comprehensively. With this coordinated approach, the Dream Keeper Initiative aims to break the cycle of poverty and involvement in the criminal justice system for the families in its City programs and ensure that new investments, including in youth development, economic opportunity, community-led change, arts and culture, workforce, and homeownership, are accessible to San Francisco’s families who are most in need.

A broader resource, “City Fund Reallocation: The Dream Keeper Initiative,” hinted at why the expansive and detailed program might be reductively described as San Francisco “paying people $300 a month not to shoot each other.” Here is how the main page about the program described it:

Introduction to Reinvestment of City Funding to Support the Black Community

On June 4, 2020, Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Shamann Walton announced they would redirect funding from the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to the African American community by the close of the 2019/2020 budget cycle on August 1, 2020. This effort is part of an ongoing, multi-year strategy to decrease over- policing of the Black community and repair the legacy of racially disparate policies on health, housing, and economic outcomes for African American/Black people in San Francisco. Mayor Breed and Supervisor Walton invited community members to share their ideas and input on the redistribution of budget dollars to ensure a collaborative process that was both data-driven and informed by lived experiences. In addition to circulating a survey citywide and accepting comments emailed to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) Roundtable, the HRC hosted and facilitated thirteen meetings between June 23 and July 16, 2020.

The below report highlights recommendations, research and data relevant to the community input process to prioritize resources from SFPD to the African American community. Although across the nation people are requesting, and in many instances demanding that police departments be defunded this process did not look at what resources, jobs or functions to eliminate or redirect in the SFPD. The intent of this report is to document the process, acknowledge and deliver the recommendations from a diverse group of stakeholders, while centering Black voices and experiences.

Another section outright included a major trigger word for hyperpartisan outrage — “reparations”:

Background

There is no shortage of reports or data on African American people and their outcomes in San Francisco, the articles and reports highlight wealth and income inequalities.

Mayor Breed often talks about being a native and the inequity she has witnessed as a Black woman growing up in poverty in the City of San Francisco. Mayor Breed is motivated by the data reports, her lived experience merely confirms the data, and demonstrates there are structural inequities in San Francisco that continue to impact the African American community each and every day and should be addressed.

In January 2020, Supervisor Walton introduced a resolution calling for reparations, with plans to create legislation creating a task force Supervisor Walton believes the redirection of SFPD dollars to the African American community helps advance reparations and notes, “This is a concrete, bold and immediate step towards true reparations for Black people.”

A one-page [PDF] information sheet on the Dream Keeper Initiative reiterated:

In June 2020, following the killing of George Floyd, Mayor Breed and Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton announced a plan to prioritize the redirection of resources from law enforcement to support the African-American community. The Dream Keeper Initiative is the result of that plan.

A search for “fellowship” and “$300” on sf-hrc.org returned no results, nor did “dream” and “$300”; $300 alone returned a single result from 2011. A September 1 2021 KPIX article reported that the “$300 not to shoot people” claim might have been out of context by a large margin:

Part of that proposal [“called the Dream Keeper Fellowship”] involves giving cash to people who could potentially find themselves in trouble and committing crimes.

But proponents argue it is more than than that. They say it stands as another attempt at universal basic income targeting a specific group.

“In many cases, sadly, the common denominator is that these folks do not have any sort of income. And so part of what we’re trying to do is make sure that money is not a barrier to turning your life around,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

The incentives could equal up to $500 a month on gift cards if all of the benchmarks — like attending parole appointments and finding a job — are met. It is modeled after, among others, Richmond’s program, which was found to have decreased gun violence 55%.

And an August 30 2021 SFExaminer.com article described the $300 payment in a slightly different way, noting that research conducted by the San Francisco Police Department itself identified a small pool of people connected to the bulk of the city’s gun violence:

The program, which will launch as a pilot in October [2021], is called the Dream Keeper Fellowship. It’s San Francisco’s latest iteration of a guaranteed-income program that will provide high-risk individuals with $300 a month as a start.

Participants will be able to earn up to $200 more a month by hitting milestones in the program, such as landing a job interview, complying with probation or consistently meeting with a mentor … The theory is that the up to $500 stipend will serve as an incentive to participate — and stay engaged.

[…]

This isn’t the first time a city has tried to reduce gun violence by offering cash. A similar anti-violence program in Oakland, for instance, offers young adults up to $300 for achieving milestones. What’s new is San Francisco would start people off with a baseline of $300 a month without having to meet any marks.

The program is modeled, in part, after the nationally watched Operation Peacemaker Fellowship in Richmond, which offers similar stipends of up to $1,000. A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Public Health linked the program to a 55% decrease in gun homicides and 43% decline in shootings since it began in 2010.

It’s also not San Francisco’s first guaranteed-income program. The City recently rolled out similar efforts for pregnant mothers from marginalized communities and artists struggling during the pandemic … Officials want to kick off the latest program with about 10 participants in October [2021], before expanding the stipends to another 30 high-risk individuals by the end of [that] year, officials said. They’ve already hired two life coaches …

Inaccurate and outrage-baiting headlines claiming “San Francisco Is Going To Pay People $300 A Month Not To Shoot Others” were predictably far more popular than earlier, balanced reporting about San Francisco’s Dream Keeper Initiative. The program was a likely target of partisan disinformation purveyors due to its genesis in diverted police funding, and the oversimplified claim had the intended effect of ginning up outrage. In actuality, local reporting indicated that a small stipend of $300 (beginning in October and expanded by the end of 2021) was being offered to individuals at high-risk of involvement with street violence, with bonuses for achievements like job interviews.