Community Violence Interventions—Not More Police—Are The Future Of Public Safety
Forbes – Nazish Dholakia, Senior Writer, & Daniela Gilbert Redefining Public Safety Director, Vera Institute of Justice
Gun violence is rising across the country—in big cities and rural communities, in red states and blue ones. Especially hard hit are Black communities and other communities of color that have experienced decades of disinvestment. But more policing isn’t the answer. Our overreliance on the tools of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration has harmed communities—and hasn’t made us safer.
So, what do real solutions look like?
Community violence intervention (CVI) programs focus on reducing homicides and shootings by establishing relationships with people at the center of gun violence in our communities.
President Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) includes a proposed $5 billion in funding for these programs, which take many forms:
Hospital-based violence interruption programs (HVIPs) reach survivors of violence in the hospital.
The results: One analysis found that every dollar invested in an HVIP returned between $10.07 and $15.11 worth of benefits through reduced hospitalizations, reinjuries, and convictions.
Some programs involve police. Group violence interventions are collaborations among community leaders, social service providers, and law enforcement. With community input, law enforcement identifies those at the highest risk of violence, and partners intervene and provide support.
The results: Cities that have invested in group violence intervention strategies, including Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Oakland, and Stockton, California, have experienced declines of more than 30 percent in shootings that result in injuries.
Other approaches center community. They employ “violence interrupters” or “neighborhood change agents” who build relationships with people involved in violence and help them address conflict in nonviolent ways, like de-escalation and mediation.
The results: Community-based program Cure Violence runs in cities all over the world. Neighborhoods in cities including Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia that have adopted the Cure Violence model have seen shootings and killings decrease by more than 30 percent. Advance Peace has programs in Richmond, Stockton, and Sacramento, California, and will launch one in New York City in fall 2021.
It’s important to note that there are many forms of violence that CVIs don’t focus on—including gender-based violence, sexual violence, child abuse, domestic violence, and police violence. These too demand investment and recognition.
Still, police department budgets remain at all-time highs. It’s time for cities to invest instead in community-based solutions to gun violence—like CVI programs—that have been proven to work.