‘Activist’, a formerly convicted murderer, proposes paying criminals to stop them from killing

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BALTIMORE, MD – A formerly convicted murderer now-turned artist and rapper, who spray painted “no shoot” zones throughout Baltimore to create safe spaces, has now proposed paying killers to stop killing people in order to reduce the city’s high murder rate.

With a knife or sword handle appearing to protrude from his front pants pocket, Tyree Moorehead told Fox 45 News about his novel idea because he is a former killer himself who can relate to criminals.

Moorehead spent 18 years in prison for second-degree murder at 15, so he believes he’s the person who can deliver a positive change where other organizations in Baltimore have failed to succeed.

Moorehead told Fox 45 News money talks:

“I can relate to the shooters. Guess what they want? They want money.

“I’ve talked to these people, I’ve seen the shooters, it’s a small city, I know who the hustlers are.”

Fox 45 News asked former Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith his opinion of Moorehead’s idea. Smith said he agrees with thinking creatively about ways to stop relentless violence:

“It speaks to the desperation that we all have.”

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However, Smith does not believe throwing money at criminals is a solution, especially when guns in the city are still so accessible:

“It could make it easier for people to get their hands on guns because they now have an influx of a different level of cash.”

However, the concept of paying criminals has been tried before.

In Richmond, California, the Operation Peacemaker Fellowship program was launched in 2008 by community activist DeVone Boggan, the former director of a city department called the Office of Neighborhood Safety.

Boggan was first hired by the city in 2007 to do something about gun violence. Richmond had recorded 47 homicides that year.

After Boggan started his program the following year, he saw immediate results. In 2008, he noted there were 40 percent fewer homicides.

However, the number of murders climbed again in 2009 so Boggan met with local law enforcement to brainstorm ideas. He told NPR what he learned at the meetings:

“What I continued to hear was folks believed that there were 17 people responsible for 70 percent of the firearm activity in our city. Seventeen people! We can do something about that.” 

Boggan and his team identified those 17 people and several more and made them an offer through the program he created. The criminals were offered counseling, social services, a job and a chance to travel if they developed a “life map,” agreed to stay in contact every day and stay out of trouble.

If the “clients” followed those stipulations, they were paid up to a $1,000 a month for nine months.

Boggan said the street patrols are paid by the city while the cash stipends come from private donors. He also acknowledged that some have called his program “cash for criminals,” but he laughed it off:

“If you believe that simply paying someone a stipend will reduce gun crimes in cities where gun crimes are long and loud, you’re wrong. We’ve done something much, much more comprehensive than that.”

NPR reported Richmond’s murder rate was cut in half since the program was initiated.

Moorehead says it’s time to try something different because nothing else is currently working:

“I can’t stop the shootings. No one in this world has proven to stop the shootings, not even the church, but what we can do is put them in compliance.”

It is not clear how much money Moorehead thinks criminals should be paid or for how long. It is also unknown how the money would be funded and whether stipulations would be required before payment.

WJZ CBS reporter Paul Gessler interviewed Moorehead in 2019 about his “no shoot zone” initiative. At the time, Moorehead explained he did not think he could stop shootings in Baltimore, but was instead focused on stopping them in certain areas.

The artist painted about 200 “no shoot zone” graffiti signs in six cities, including Baltimore. Some signs contained phrases, such as “We must stop killing each other.”

Moorehead believed killers were heeding his message, but skeptics disagreed. 

In 2019, 1,000 people were shot in Baltimore alone, and the city had 348 homicides.

In 2020, there were 335 homicides.

So far in 2021, there have already been 38 homicide victims, including Moorehead’s childhood friend, Dante Barksdale.

Last month, Barksdale was gunned down inside one of the “no shoot zones” that was near the Douglas Homes housing project in the southeast part of the city.

Police said they found Barksdale with a gunshot wound to his head.

Moorehead spoke about his friend:

“It shook in the streets. He wasn’t supposed to be touched. To have him murdered in no shoot zone, it’s going to be paint, inside of paint, inside of paint.”

Barksdale was the director of Safe Streets, a crime-fighting program where outreach workers would go into neighborhoods as mediators in an attempt to de-escalate disputes before they erupted into violence.

Barksdale was part of Mayor Brandon Scott’s transition team. The heartbroken mayor called Barksdale a friend and a brother, saying in a statement:

“He was the heart and soul of Safe Streets. His death is a major loss to Safe Streets, the communities they serve and the entire city of Baltimore.

“They save lives. Dante’s work saved lives.”

In reference to his friend’s murder, Moorehead told Fox 45 News:

“The whole city is aware of this one. Everyone in their office is aware of this one, everyone in the streets, every Blood, every Crip, every PGF member, every GD blood. Everyone is aware of this one.”

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