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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Gun violence prompts community groups to take bold action

SEATTLE ( Associated Press) — Dominic Davis was inside a Seattle-area church one day in March 2021 when a man with a handgun opened fire during a meeting of Community Passageway, a group he founded that advocates gun violence. Works to stop.

The gunman shot 19-year-old Omari Wallace several times before fleeing. Wallace, who was attending an orientation for a program to keep youth away from violence and keep them out of prison, died from his wounds.

There were two more shootings in Seattle that week. “It was back to back to back,” Davis recalled.

In 2021, Seattle recorded more shootings, including injuries and deaths compared to the last five years. Davis heard that the leader of one of the two rival groups, whose confrontation had intensified, said that the only way to stop the bloodshed would be if the groups could keep some distance between each other.

So he took advantage of the opportunity. Davis arranged for 16 youths from two groups to leave town—one for Phoenix, the other for Los Angeles—and paid them to stay away for 30 days and work with therapists and mentors. Davis said that since returning to Seattle, except for all three youths, many of whom had previously been involved in gun violence, they have not been charged.

This unusual plan is an example of how community groups across the country, long demanding an end to violence, are adopting innovative ways to stem the increase in shootings over the past two years. Along with this, there has also been an increase in the purchase of guns. Known as the Community Violence Intervention, the approach deploys people with personal connections – and credibility – with those most likely to engage in gun violence. Although this method is not new, but interest in it is increasing.

The Biden administration has made community violence intervention a major priority. It has earmarked $5 billion in support over eight years, though that funding has stalled in Congress, along with the rest of the administration’s Build Back Better legislation.

and under the recently passed bipartisan gun violence law, which seeks to keep guns away from dangerous people after spurring reforms after the Uvalde killings, Congress provided $250 million for the prevention of community violence. The administration has also asked municipalities and states to spend the federal stimulus allocated last year for violence interventions.

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Support for these local organizations marks a departure from a long-standing reliance on the police to prevent gun violence. Aaliyah Harvey Quinn, executive director of Force Detroit, one such group, likens this approach to “how we stop drunk driving with our friends: simply interfering and aggressively snatching the keys and our relationships to do so.” to use.”

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In June at the same church in South Seattle, Davis invited members of local groups who try to defuse conflict to the front of the room. The leaders – mainly people of color, predominantly black – said their work is part of a longer struggle for security and justice and against systemic racism.

Beneath the words “Love,” “Joy” and “Peace” on the wall, Davis counted the number of years he served in prison. Some shared journeys of redemption, how they eventually gained independence and now dedicate themselves to healing their communities.

He shared the strategy with representatives from similar groups in Newark and Baltimore, which is part of an 18-month initiative Sponsored by the Biden administration and paid for by a dozen philanthropic foundations. The Community Violence Intervention Collaborative launched in June 2021 to train and expand local organizations in 16 cities.

The training is funded by $7.4 million from charities including the Ford Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Hyphen, a non-profit specializing in public-philanthropy partnerships, manages the initiative. Its founder Archana Sehgal described this effort as an opportunity from generation to generation.

“You have been able to trigger a social movement re-imagining public safety in this country,” Sehgal said.

So far, few large cities or states have responded to Biden’s call to invest in these programs. But municipalities have until 2024 to allocate their funds from the $1.9 trillion stimulus packageWhich was enacted in 2021 to address the pandemic and the economic damage caused by it.

University of Illinois Chicago researchers Amanda Kass and Marquette University’s Philip Rocco analyzed how money was spent between March and November 2021. They found that $79 million was allocated by nine states. and 79 areas for intervention of violence.

That’s far less than the $5 billion Biden would have directed toward this work, although the budget adopted by the same entities proposes to spend $470 million on projects over time.

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Many leaders and participants in Seattle’s Network of Gun Violence Interventions have survived gunshots or have relatives who have been injured or killed by guns. They feel a growing urgency about their work. Some compare their fight for funding – to “The Hunger Games” – to smaller grants allocated from the city and King County or through intermediary organizations.

“We’re saying, give us $30 million,” Davis said. “We know who’s doing the work.”

Another Seattle-area organization, SE Network, arranges community gatherings on Friday evenings — in the parking lot of a grocery store where a fatal shooting took place in 2020 — to try to prevent further violence. The group’s executive director, Marty Jackson, said they use data on where the shootings occurred to determine where to deploy their teams.

“We know full well that the rest of the city needs this kind of attention,” Jackson said. “We definitely need the resources to replicate what we know working in these focused spaces.”

Each year, she seeks fresh funding for her work, which includes sending trained workers to spend time around schools.

“You have to create performance measures for your work,” Jackson said, “and then market it yourself. It’s a daunting task.”

Jeffrey A. Butts, director of research at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and one of the authors of the recent review of community intervention programs, cautioned against drawing easy conclusions about the effectiveness of such interventions.

“They say, ‘We started doing Program X here two years ago and our shoots have dropped by 30%.’ And the audience applauds and everyone congratulates themselves,” Butts said. “But this is not evidence that the program resulted in that change.”

Some evidence supports such interventions, but Butts notes that many projects called community violence interventions actually target young children or housing or economic programs. Without rigorous evaluation, he said, it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of community violence interventions or determine which strategies work best.

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Tim Daly, program director for gun violence at The Joyce Foundation, said government investment is important.

“We need public dollars to be able to scale those strategies to the extent that is necessary,” Daly said.

Until then, gun violence intervention organizations are competing for a limited number of grants. Several groups receiving training sponsored by the White House and philanthropic organizations said they could use their funding many times more.

Aaliyah Harvey Quinn of Detroit said her group could easily spend $15 million a year to provide a comprehensive ecosystem of services, including therapy and entrepreneurship training. This will be in addition to street outreach at the heart of community intervention – connecting with people most likely to be involved in shootings. His group’s annual budget is just $1.2 million.

The recently passed Michigan state budget included $500,000 for Harvey Quinn’s group and $3 million for a group in Flint, as well as $11 million in competitive grants that could go to community interventions. Detroit has allocated $12 million of its pandemic relief fund to programs that have yet to be spent.

In last year’s budget, Seattle provided $1.5 million to the Violence Intervention Affiliate which includes Community Passageway and SE Network. But the city has exhausted its pandemic relief fund. King County said it has allocated about $1 million from the Epidemic Relief Fund to community violence interventions.

The Biden administration says it hopes its new program could generate more money.

“By bringing together leaders from philanthropy, the federal government and (community intervention) in this first-of-its-kind partnership, it puts our nation on the path to redefining public safety and reducing gun violence in this country.” Julie Rodriguez, a senior adviser to Biden.

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Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits is supported through Associated Press’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. Associated Press is solely responsible for this content. For all of Associated Press’s philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.,

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