The gun epidemic has hit underserved communities of color particularly hard – gun homicide rates in these neighborhoods have reached a crisis point. Gun violence intervention programs have been shown to be effective at breaking the cycle of violence in impacted communities.
Nowhere is the gun violence crisis more evident than in our underserved urban communities, where homicide rates often reach 10 times the national average. Young black men are especially vulnerable—the chance of a black American family losing a son to a bullet is 62% greater than losing him to a car accident. In fact, black men make up just 6% of the U.S. population, but account for 51% of all homicide victims.
Urban violence has too often been left out of the national conversation about guns, even though it makes up a huge proportion of the human toll of this epidemic. It is morally unconscionable that in the United States today we have neighborhoods with gun injury rates on par with active warzones.
The good news is change is possible—and already happening in cities across the country. Research and case studies have shown that through a combination of low-cost, community-oriented intervention programs and much-needed firearms policy reforms, gun violence rates in urban communities can be cut in half in as little as two years. The solutions exist — we just need to implement them.
Proven Policy Solutions
Group Violence Intervention Programs
This strategy identifies the small population—sometimes just a few dozen people—responsible for the majority of gun violence in a neighborhood. Community leaders, in conjunction with police, offer both carrots and sticks to discourage group members from participating in shootings. Boston saw a 42% decrease in murders after implementing Group Violence Intervention programs.
Cure Violence Intervention Programs
Treating gun violence like a communicable disease, this strategy employs “violence interrupters” trained to understand neighborhood dynamics and mediate potentially deadly conflicts. At the same time, outreach workers connect at-risk individuals to social services. Homicides fell 31% in Chicago neighborhoods using the Cure Violence model.
Hospital-Based Intervention Programs
These interventions connect recently injured patients with culturally competent case managers who help them leave behind a violent lifestyle and avoid the retaliatory attacks that make up a significant share of urban gun violence. Using this model, San Francisco General saw injury recidivism rates fall from 16% to just 4.5% for the six years following implementation, a $500,000 savings in annual medical expenses.
How Richmond Stopped the Shooting
Richmond, CA, was considered one of the most violent places in America, with murder rates 10 times higher than similar cities. The vast majority of victims were young black men. In response, the city established the innovative Office of Neighborhood Safety, a government agency unaffiliated with law enforcement, to implement a combination of Group Violence Intervention, Cure Violence, and Hospital-Based Intervention programs, as well as the Operation Peacekeeper Fellowship, a mentoring program for the most at-risk individuals. In economic terms, Richmond’s initiative reduced the demand side of the gun violence problem, while California’s leading-edge gun laws tamped down the supply side. After implementing this comprehensive set of intervention strategies, Richmond’s gun homicide rate dropped over 75%. The results were remarkable: homicides dropped from 47 per year to 11, the lowest number on record.