Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Life

Crime Pays

Still image from the documentary A Confused War, courtesy of Mariel Carr and Rachel Waldholz.

D’vondre Woodard, graduate of the ONS program. Still image from the documentary A Confused War, courtesy of Mariel Carr and Rachel Waldholz.

This month’s podcast is about what it takes to get people to change. We focus on a group of people that might be the hardest to change… or at least they’ve had the most money thrown at them in hopes of change: Criminals.

Back in 2006, Richmond, CA was named the ninth most dangerous city in the country, with 42 murders for a population of about 100,000. Then they brought in a new police chief and started doing all kinds of things differently. And it worked. Homicides are now a third of what they were. Crime has dropped in a way that is dramatic and impressive. And police say that one of the things that helped is a program called the Office of Neighborhood Safety, or ONS. That’s a bland name for what is actually a very unusual program with one particular tactic that you do not hear about people trying very often: paying criminals to not commit crimes. Sounds crazy, but the even crazier part is…it works. 

This story originally aired on This American Life, in the episode, The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind. Thanks to Ira Glass and the entire staff of This American Life for their help on this story.

The photograph above of D’vondre Woodard is a still image from the documentary,  A Confused War, which examines the Office of Neighborhood Safety in Richmond, CA. Image courtesy of Mariel Carr and Rachel Waldholz.

Radio Diaries is part of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the best story-driven podcasts on the planet. This week’s episode is sponsored by Squarespace and Hover (for both sponsors, use the offer code “DIARIES” to get 10% off your first purchase).

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