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Group Violence Intervention Shows Encouraging Results In Philadelphia

A city-run initiative that aims to provide services to those at risk of shooting someone or being shot has shown encouraging results in attempts to address the city’s gun violence, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. An evaluation conducted by a University of Pennsylvania researcher said the approach, Group Violence Intervention (GVI), helped reduce gun violence among targeted groups of young people by as much as 50 percent during a nearly 30-month period ending last spring. Similarly promising reductions could be seen in neighborhoods where the initiative took place, the evaluation said. And although gun violence has remained at troubling levels citywide, with shootings still occurring at nearly their highest level in decades, city officials nonetheless said they were pleased by what they viewed as positive results from a promising approach they intend to expand. “This is incredible work that has the power to transform and save lives,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. Deion Sumpter, GVI’s director, said: “Through this unique partnership with city staff, law enforcement, and community members, we are building a coalition that increases city government and community capacity to address the gun violence crisis.”


Gun violence has also remained stubbornly high, with police statistics showing nearly 70 people killed in homicides through the first two months of this year, the vast majority by gunfire. Still, many say GVI has become a valuable tool by focusing on an important kind of violence: Shootings by and between young men in loosely affiliated street groups, who often open fire over perceived rivalries or beefs. GVI’s approach calls for law enforcement to identify a small population of people most likely to shoot or be shot, then to have police, social workers, community members, and GVI case managers encourage them to put down the guns. The GVI team offers access to social services to help encourage people to stay off the streets and warns of criminal consequences if they or their suspected group members commit crimes. GVI launched in August 2020 and received $1 million in city funding this fiscal year. Vanessa Garrett Harley, a deputy mayor who helped guide its launch, said it also received money from the state and through grants. The scope of the strategy, and the study, is limited, says criminologist Ruth Moyer who conducted the evaluation. Still, there has been evidence of “significant” reductions in violence among groups contacted by GVI.

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