Tiana Hercules, who for the last 10 months has been the head of Opportunities Hartford — a program started by Mayor Pedro Segarra that identifies short- and long-term opportunities in employment, income and education, and helps expand upon them — has been selected as the project manager for Project Longevity in Hartford.
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 them 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.
Hercules’ first day of work as project manager is Tuesday. The city is seeking $60,000 from the state to fund her position.
Hercules said she was approached by representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office about the job. She will be in charge of coordinating the effort, which includes forging relationships with community members, service organizations and law enforcement.
Prior to 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.
Part of her job 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.
Segarra has said that he wants to tie his Opportunities Hartford program in with Project Longevity.
A crucial part of Longevity will be the social services offered, Segarra told the Courant in January, 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 said. “We want to marry [Longevity] with other efforts for long-term sustainability. Meaningful change can last a lifetime.”