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The State Of Community Violence Intervention

Protests over police brutality and racial injustice following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police in 2020 also sparked a call for alternative approaches to public safety that don’t involve law enforcement.

Since then, there’s been massive investment in community violence intervention, from the federal level to states and local governments, the Trace reports. 

The 2021 American Rescue Plan Act provided billions that cities and states could use for violence prevention, and the 2022 Safer Communities Act allocated $250 million specifically for community-based efforts. The funding has been used to support street outreach teams, hospital-based violence prevention initiatives, and other efforts to defuse violence.

But the work is ongoing.

A recent report by the organization Community Justice assessed and scored 100 cities based on 35 recommendations that indicate “structural framework and resources each rated municipality has established for community violence prevention readiness.” 

Those recommendations include immediate interventions, such as violence interrupter programs, along with efforts targeting the root causes of violence, such as lack of housing,  food insecurity, and unemployment. 

It found that “while cities are making some measurable overall progress, the vast majority of municipalities across the country are failing substantially to invest in a holistic public health approach to violence prevention.”

In 2023, the report found, the percentage of municipalities with a “whole-of-government strategic violence prevention plan” increased slightly from 38 to 41 percent since 2022. But even fewer health departments had a violence prevention strategy of their own — 30 percent, down from 36 percent in 2022. 

In an interview with The Trace, Amber Goodwin, the founder of Community Justice said that while she was encouraged by the overall increase in community violence prevention strategies, there was still a lot of work to be done translating funding into action.

“We’re just not there yet,” she said. “You can see a disparity — there’s the top 10 or top 15 cities, and then you see a drop in other cities. We still have a long way to go. There’s been such tremendous, historic investments, but this index doesn’t just talk about funding. There’s a ton of money that’s out there that either hasn’t gotten to the ground or needs to get to the ground. This means that more cities need to take a comprehensive approach that addresses these root causes of violence.”

Still, she said she believes there is widespread support for community violence intervention programs around the country. 

“When we talk to policymakers, when we talk to people in the community, and they learn about CVI [community violence intervention], they’re excited about it,” she said. “People are working together and thinking comprehensively about preventing violence: What are the root causes of violence? How are we addressing that? And how are we holding folks accountable to make sure that everybody has a part to play in preventing violence?”


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