Gun violence and serious crime are exacting a heavy toll in pockets of America, particularly in historically marginalized and underserved communities. The Office of Justice Programs is working together with changemakers engaged in their communities to make a difference – from community residents to local government agencies to victim service providers, community-based organizations, law enforcement and more.
Community violence intervention is based on enlisting trusted messengers to build relationships and extend opportunities to those at risk of committing or being victimized by violence. Through its Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative, or CVIPI, OJP is the leading federal funder of violence intervention and prevention programs in communities nationwide.
In 2022, OJP invested $100 million to support community violence interventions that enlist local partners as co-producers of public safety, and that is just the start. In the coming weeks, OJP will seek grant applications under a new funding opportunity for CVIPI initiatives. In the meantime, find out how seven cities are carrying out community violence intervention strategies using OJP funding.
1. A plan to reduce gun and gang violence in Los Angeles
To reduce gun and gang violence that plagues underserved communities in Los Angeles, the Urban Peace Institute partners with violence intervention agencies, local government, community leaders and law enforcement using innovative strategies to address the factors that lead to community violence. OJP funding empowers UPI to continue its violence reduction work, which includes training on relationship-based policing, community assessments designed to develop tailored approaches to community violence and strategies to reform the justice system. UPI also trains and supports peacemakers who proactively work to reduce violence and provide 24/7 incident response to shootings in an effort to prevent further violent retaliations.
2. An alliance to address crime hot spots in Baltimore
With 332 homicides and 731 nonfatal shootings in 2021, Baltimore suffers some of the highest rates of serious violence in America. The Black Mental Health Alliance and partner organizations are using CVIPI funding to reach residents who live near open air drug markets and violent crime hotspots, offering mental health services, entrepreneurship training, case management and peer mentoring.
3. A public health approach to gun violence in Illinois
Gun violence has been on the rise in Lake County, Illinois, for several years, with more than 80% of gun-related homicides occurring in its three most underserved cities. The Lake County State’s Attorney Office is taking a public health approach to violence by working with high-risk youths and supporting community-based organizations that collaborate with law enforcement. The strategy is an adaptation of the Cure Violence Model, which maintains that violence is a learned behavior that can be prevented using disease control methods.
4. Hyper-local collaboration in Chicago
Homicides recorded by Chicago police in 2021 reached levels not seen since the mid-1990s and topped the number of murders recorded in every other city in America. Metropolitan Family Services, through its Metropolitan Peace Initiative, is actively engaged in reducing gun violence in Chicago and healing the communities most affected. MPI administers Communities Partnering 4 Peace, a network of community-based and citywide organizations that takes a comprehensive, long-term approach to reducing violence through hyper-local collaboration, trauma-informed care and restorative justice principles.
5. A team approach to helping Newark youth
The epidemic of gun violence has been especially lethal for young people. Nationwide, 2020 was the first year in which gun violence was the leading cause of death for children and teens, with young Black men at greatest risk. The Newark Community Street Team is a community-based violence reduction initiative dedicated to improving opportunities for youth in Newark and across the state of New Jersey. The organization has helped thousands of youth, currently serving about 300 young people ages 16 through 24. The team is training High Risk Interventionists who will be deployed to violent incidents, based on intelligence from the community or law enforcement, to reach victims and prevent retaliation. Project leaders also hosts bi-weekly public safety roundtables where community members and law enforcement can discuss public safety concerns and solicit stakeholder feedback.
6. A partnership between the Bronx community and prosecutors to interrupt gun violence
Bronx County has a high per capita rate of shootings, gun violence and illegal gun possession compared to the rest of New York City and the state of New York. CVIPI funding supports the Bronx Osborne Gun Accountability and Prevention program, an evidence-based violence intervention and prevention program directed at people ages 18 to 30 who have open indicted cases in Bronx Supreme Court for unlicensed loaded-gun possession. A partnership between the Osborne Association and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, the program provides transformative mentoring by credible messenger staff, trauma treatment, hard-skills training, cognitive behavioral therapy, therapeutic support and transitional employment, all in an effort to transform participants’ attitudes and beliefs to prevent future gun possession and gun violence and improve life outcomes for participants. Upon successful completion of the program, participants have their felony pleas vacated and are re-sentenced to a misdemeanor and conditional discharge.
7. Youth development and violence intervention in Miami
Responding to circular patterns of poverty, crime, violence and educational failures, the Circle of Brotherhood is addressing the problem by providing community-driven programs and services that include youth development and mentorship, crime prevention, conflict resolution and mediation, and educational services. The program’s goal is to realize sustainable reductions in crime and long-term social change.