BREAK THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE ACT
To build safer, thriving communities, and save lives by investing in effective community–based violence reduction initiatives.
From 2010 to 2019, over 175,000 people were murdered in the United States. Hundreds of
thousands more were hospitalized or treated in emergency departments after surviving
life–changing gunshot injuries and other violent assaults. In 2020, the Nation suffered the
largest single–year spike in homicides on record, driven largely by record spikes in fatal
shootings. Nationwide, 75 percent of all homicides are committed with a gun. This violence is a
cycle: in studies of some urban hospitals, researchers have found that up to 45 percent of patients
treated for injuries like gunshots were violently reinjured within five years. People who have
been violently victimized are also at increased risk of retaliating and becoming perpetrators of
violence: being shot, being shot at, or witnessing a shooting doubles the probability that a young
person will commit violence in the next two years. This violence disproportionately impacts
young people of color. From 2015 to 2019, Black children and teens were 14 times as likely to
be shot to death as their White peers. Hispanic children and teens and Native American children
and teens were both about 3 times as likely to be shot to death as their White peers. Over this
period, 72 percent of children murdered before their 18th birthday were people of color, and 50
percent were Black.
This violence imposes enormous fiscal costs on all communities and taxpayers. On average, a
single gun homicide generates approximately $448,000 in medical care and criminal justice
expenses—and taxpayers pay most of those costs. In total, gun violence costs the United States
$229 billion every year—with each American shouldering over $700 of this cost annually.
THE SOLUTION: COMMUNITY–BASED VIOLENCE INTERVENTION STRATEGIES
Evidence–based community violence intervention and prevention programs designed to interrupt
cycles of violence and retaliation have proven to be highly effective at reducing rates of
community violence, saving both lives and taxpayer dollars. From 2012 to 2013, a $2 million
violence reduction program in two Massachusetts cities generated nearly $15 million in savings
from decreases in crime. However, these programs require consistent and reliable federal funding
to be successful. Currently, these effective programs have been implemented in only a handful of
cities and lack a reliable or adequate stream of resources.
• Community outreach programs hire violence intervention and prevention specialists
who have established relationships, relatable lived experiences, and credibility with
individuals in their communities at high risk of violence and connect them with intensive
counseling, mediation, peer support, and social services in order to reduce their risk.
Evaluations have found that these programs, particularly when integrated into wider
networks of supportive services, are frequently associated with significant reductions in
• Group violence intervention strategies provide tailored social services and support to
group–involved individuals at highest risk for involvement in community violence. This
intervention, which must be trauma informed, culturally responsive, and community
driven to be most successful, includes a process for community members to voice a clear
demand for the violence to stop and narrowly focused enforcement actions against those
who continue to engage in acts of serious violence. The approach coordinates law
enforcement, service providers, and community engagement efforts to reduce violence in
ways that do not contribute to mass incarceration.
• Violence interruption and crisis management respond to potentially violent incidents
to mediate conflicts or to scenes where violence has occurred to offer trauma–informed
services and community supports to survivors and others exposed to violence. These
strategies help to prevent retaliatory violence and promote healing and well–being.
Programs that include these components have reported deescalating dozens of disputes
that were highly likely to end 9 in lethal violence.
• Hospital–based Violence Intervention Programs (HVIPs) seek to break the cycle of
violence by leveraging credible violence intervention and prevention specialists to
provide intensive counseling, peer support, case management, mediation, and social
services to patients recovering from gunshot wounds and other violent injuries. Research
has shown that violently injured patients are at high risk of retaliating with violence
themselves or being revictimized by violence in the near future. Evaluations of HVIPs
have found that patients who received HVIP services were often less likely to be
convicted of a violent crime and less likely to be subsequently reinjured by violence than
patients who did not receive HVIP services.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
The federal Break the Cycle of Violence Act proposes to authorize $6.5 billion over 8 years to
invest in effective community–based violence intervention programs and provide jobs to
opportunity youth between the ages of 16–24: $5 billion over 8 years for a competitive grant
program to community–based organizations and local units of government that develop effective,
prevention–oriented violence reduction initiatives focused on young people at highest risk for
violence, and $1.5 billion over 8 years for the Improving Approaches for Communities to Thrive
(IMPACT) grant for eligible organizations and units of local government to provide job training,
education, apprenticeship, skilled trades training, or other paid and unpaid work experiences for
opportunity youth in communities disproportionately affected by gun violence