Dawaun Rice is just 19 years old, but he’s already lost seven friends to gun violence, he said. Two of them were brothers who were shot on the same day.
Grappling with an urge to avenge his friends’ violent murders, Rice pulled out his phone and considered whether to set a plan in motion for retaliation.
“I have to sit back, and I’ve gotta think, whether to go left or whether to go right,” he said.
After a few moments, he puts away his phone without making a move.
This potent mix of pain, anger and teenagers with guns once made Rice’s hometown of Richmond, California — across the Bay from San Francisco — one of the deadliest cities in the country. Here, the streets are hunting grounds where young men run for their lives as they try to escape the bullets.
In 2007, the city brought in DeVone Boggan, a youth development policy professional with an expertise in chronic violent offenders and the founder of the Office of Neighborhood Safety, who came up with a controversial solution: Pay young men like Rice not to pull the trigger. The better the behavior, the better the paycheck.