Press Release

Giffords Law Center Unveils New Report on Urban Gun Violence Crisis, Spotlights Three Programs that Save Lives and Taxpayer Dollars

Nearly 115,000 people are shot in the United States every year, creating a public health emergency 

Report on urban gun violence, a collaboration with PICO National Network and Community Justice Reform Coalition, focuses on Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York, which all implemented promising violence intervention and prevention programs that focus on high-risk individuals and involve the community  

December 18, 2017—As urban communities across the country struggle with a gun violence crisis, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence today unveiled a new report, Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State-Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence, that highlights innovative programs in three states that save lives. The report focuses on the impact of gun violence in our nation’s cities and examines how Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York each support community-based programs that have helped reduce gun homicides and shootings while saving taxpayer money. The strategies used by these three states are also cost-effective and do not require the regulation of firearms.

“For too many families, the rhythm of daily life in their neighborhood includes hearing gunshots. Bullets don’t just take lives, they forever alter the lives of those left behind,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Communities in our cities are grappling with a public health crisis just as severe as the opioid epidemic. And while most states have yet to take steps to solve the problem, we are shining a light on three states that have. The programs highlighted in our report show what happens when when we invest in communities and give struggling individuals a chance to choose an alternative path they wouldn’t otherwise have. Focusing on more decent and humane efforts like this is saving lives, saving money, and making communities safer places for families to live.”

The report is the result of a partnership between Giffords Law CenterPICO National Network, and the Community Justice Reform Coalition and illustrates the severity of the problem of urban gun violence and the proven solutions that can be transformational to neighborhoods in need. Each year, nearly 115,000 people in the United States are shot, and the corresponding criminal justice and healthcare costs total an estimated $229 billion. Underserved neighborhoods bear the brunt of this epidemic—black men make up 6% of the nation’s population, but account for more than half of gun homicide victims each year.

State-level programs in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York have shown that progress can be made to fight the problem. Each has invested in evidence-based strategies to combat the violence found in their most-affected cities. Massachusetts, for example, began investing in community-based gun violence reduction strategies in 2006. From 2010 to 2015, the state’s gun homicide rate fell by 35% while nationally the rate rose 14%. Yet 45 states have so far failed to invest in evidence-based violence prevention and intervention programs.

Investing in Intervention details how each state has been successful and why others should consider funding similar programs.

Read the full report here.

These strategies are centered on partnerships between community members, law enforcement officials, and social service providers who can work with the small group of individuals most at risk of committing acts of gun violence. These groups in cities can comprise less than 0.5% of the population but are consistently linked to up to 70% of shootings and homicides.

The first section of the report takes a close look at the programs implemented by the three states and why they have been successful:

Connecticut

After a number of Connecticut cities faced high rates of violence, the state launched Project Longevity, which used state funds to implement the strategy known as Gun Violence Intervention (GVI) in New Haven, Hartford, and Bridgeport. Those cities account for more than 70% of gun homicides in the state. Combined homicide rates in the three cities fell from 75 in 2011 to 31 in 2016, a drop of more than 50%. New Haven, the first Project Longevity site, saw the number of non-fatal shootings cut in half between 2011 and 2016.

For an in-depth overview of Connecticut’s Project Longevity, including a case study of New Haven, go to page 33 of the report.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts has worked aggressively to invest in these programs, with positive results, and between 2010 and 2015, saw the gun homicide rates among young people ages 14 to 24 drop 45%. The state sought to help young adults most at risk for violence by starting the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI) and the Shannon Community Safety Initiative (Shannon CSI). SSYI provides grants to 20 Massachusetts municipalities at the highest risk of gun violence that have plans to provide social services to proven risk young people. SSYI cities saw a 31% reduction in aggravated assaults compared to 2009, along with a 25% reduction in homicide victimization. The program is also reducing rates of incarceration in Massachusetts. These reductions in violence and incarceration are saving millions for taxpayers.

Shannon CSI is a grant program that gives grants to communities that create a comprehensive plan for tackling youth violence. This usually involves steps like supporting regional law enforcement operations, hiring outreach workers, funding job training programs, and supporting after-school programs. In Worcester, which developed a program with Shannon CSI funding, the city saw a 36% reduction in shooting victims from 2014 to 2016.

For an in-depth overview of the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative and the Shannon Community Safety Initiative, including case studies, go to page 23 of the report.

New York

In New York, from 2010 to 2015, the gun homicide rate fell 23%, including a nearly 30% decline in gun homicides among young people aged 14 to 24. Part of New York’s comprehensive response to gun violence is its investment in the Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) Initiative and Operation SNUG, both administered by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). GIVE has focused on reducing gun homicide rates outside of New York City through intervention and prevention strategies like having community members, law enforcement, and social service providers reach out to those most at risk, and street outreach to work with those who have a history of violent behavior. It also has sought to better engage the community in crime-prevention efforts. Albany used GIVE to have the community members sit down with at-risk individuals. Between the first and third community “call-ins” Albany went 420 straight days without a single homicide.

Operation SNUG has created 11 sites across New York state that focus on treating gun violence as a public health problem. At one of those sites—Jacobi Medical Center, located in the Bronx—the three precincts it covers have seen combined shootings fall from 114 in 2014 to 47 in 2016.

For an in-depth overview of the GIVE Initiative and Operation SNUG, including case studies, go to page 39 of the report.

The second part of the report provides a blueprint for how the 45 states without community-based violence intervention and prevention programs can create their own. While it notes there is no one size-fits-all model, the report outlines initiatives like the ones implemented in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York and identifies six essential elements to ensure success:

  • Focus on High-Risk People and Places

  • Implement Evidence-Based Strategies

  • Provide Robust State-Level Coordination

  • Conduct Regular Program Evaluations

  • Commit to Long-Term, Stable Funding

  • Facilitate Community Input and Engagement

For an overview of how the 45 states without these programs could implement a strategy with these six elements, go to page 52 of the report.

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