One of the reasons that effective violence reduction models have had limited success in some of the cities that have tried it, is that city and law enforcement officials have not effectively engaged the community as full partners in its implementation. Community leaders and, in particular, those most directly impacted by the violence, must be central in shaping the program’s implementation in order for it to have credibility on the streets and to ensure that needed adjustments and course corrections are made along the way. Key elements of the community engagement process include the following:
Community Night Walks: Typically led by clergy, groups of community members walk some of the area’s most dangerous streets at night in order to promote greater engagement with the individuals and networks who are responsible for the violence as well as to promote a wider awareness of the issues. The ultimate goal of the walks is to help build a base of advocates who can influence funding and implementation of effective community violence intervention in the city.
Rapid Response: Clergy and community leaders mobilize in order to attend to victims of gun violence and their families right after a shooting. In addition to providing needed support to those facing tragedy, this helps community leaders develop closer relationships with those directly impacted by violence and, as is the case with the night walks, can build greater awareness and sharper advocacy for violence intervention efforts.
Community Steering Committee: A community-based committee comprised of all the key local partners who are working in partnership to plan and implement the strategy. Typically, this includes county or city officials, directly impacted individuals, and representatives from various agencies that are providing services to the targeted individuals. This group meets regularly to review updated shooting and homicide data, reviews the progress of the individuals who are receiving services, makes adjustments in terms of community messaging, and generally monitors the progress of the work.
Community Organizing: It is a full-time effort to keep the various community partners—city/county officials, community leaders, street outreach workers, and community service providers—aligned and working in effective partnership. Community organizers help disenfranchised communities build sufficient power to hold city and other officials accountable for supporting policies and investments that keep them alive and free.