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Head Of Mayor's Initiative Tapped For Project Longevity

Gang Members To Be Warned All Are Liable For Another's Shooting

Carlesso, Jenna

September 18, 2013

Organizers of Project Longevity, a program targeting violent criminals, have tapped Tiana Hercules to help coordinate the effort in Hartford.

Hercules, a city resident, has served as the head of Opportunities Hartford -- an initiative started by Mayor Pedro Segarra that identifies employment, income and education opportunities and helps expand upon them -- for the last 10 months.

Her first day of work as project manager for Project Longevity was Tuesday. The city is seeking $60,000 from the state to help fund her position.

Hercules said she was approached by representatives from the U.S. Attorney's Office about the job.

One of her duties will be to help strengthen the relationship between the community and law enforcement.

"I want to show that it's not just law enforcement's job to fight crime," she said.

Project Longevity, devised by criminologist David M. Kennedy, was introduced in New Haven nearly a year ago.

Under the program, researchers study gangs, their makeup and relationships, focusing on the relatively small number of people who commit the most violent crimes.

Later, gang members are called into a room with family members, community leaders, social service workers, police and prosecutors and told that if any of the gang members are linked to a shooter, law enforcement will come down on the entire group.

Because many gang members are on parole or probation, this warning is designed to let them know they will be targeted -- and could go to prison -- even if another person does the shooting.

As an alternative, they are offered programs and services -- drug treatment, employment preparation and readiness, housing, education and life skills.

Connecticut is first to launch Project Longevity on a statewide basis. The program is also planned for Bridgeport.

Before her work with Opportunities Hartford, Hercules, 30, served as a staff attorney for The Center For Medicare Advocacy in Mansfield. She has a master of business administration/juris doctor dual degree from the University of Connecticut and a bachelor's degree in government and sociology-based human relations from Connecticut College.

Segarra has said he wanted to tie his Opportunities Hartford program in with Project Longevity.

A crucial part of Longevity will be the social services offered, he said, noting that the city has a large prison re-entry population.

"With a carrot-and-stick approach there needs to be, on the carrot end, something that's palpable," he told The Courant in January. "We want to marry [Longevity] with other efforts for long-term sustainability. Meaningful change can last a lifetime."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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