The Biden administration's $100 million in grants being given to "community violence intervention" programs (CVI) are a "window of opportunity" for local programs to prove their effectiveness in reducing the number of shootings that are wracking many U.S. cities, an advocate told a criminal justice conference on Monday.
Fernando Rejon of the Urban Peace Institute used the example of such a program in Los Angeles, which he said had hired 120 anti-violence workers in 23 zones who had helped reduced violence by 41% and saved taxpayers more than $100 million in expenses dealing with the aftermath of shootings.
Rejon spoke at a symposium sponsored by the National Criminal Justice Association, the Justice Research and Statistics Association and the SEARCH organization being held in Long Beach, Cal.
Another speaker, Paul Carrillo of the Giffords Center for Violence Intervention, said that at least a dozen cities, led by Los Angeles and Chicago, had built up significant local anti-violence projects in the years before the pandemic struck, only to see homicides increase as the programs had to shut down or be curtailed.
Among other cities with strong local anti-violence programs are Boston, Baltimore, Oakland, San Diego, New York, San Diego, Phoenix, Baton Rouge, Denver and Newark, N.J.
The programs frequently hire former convicts — he called them "home-grown peacemakers" — to connect with people in localities who are judged to be high risks of committing violence.
Typically, the community workers offer help in finding jobs, medical treatment or housing. Major targets of the programs are gang members or people close to them. Carrillo himself has a brother in prison for a gang offense and other family members who have been incarcerated,
Carrillo and Rojan said that successful programs cooperate with local police departments and provide extensive training to workers.
The Urban Peace Institute offers 140 hours of training to local anti-violence workers.
The Biden program was announced as the 2022 fiscal year ended last Sept. 30. The Justice Department's National Institute of Justice will evaluate the funded programs.