Photo courtesy of Roca Inc.

Baltimore City’s group violence reduction strategy has yielded a reduction in the number of homicides and non-fatal shootings, according to city officials and community violence prevention partners.

Highlighting the positive impact of Baltimore City’s Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS), the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE) joined Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP) on Wednesday to showcase the roles of what their officials call “community moral voice and service provision in the City’s focused-deterrence strategy.”

GVRS is designed to reduce homicides and non-fatal shootings, and “is a nationally recognized approach that has the strongest formal evaluation record of any violence prevention initiative,” according to MONSE officials.

“Our Group Violence Reduction Strategy relies on a balance of positive and punitive consequences to ensure individuals most at-risk of being involved in gun violence – either as a perpetrator or victim – are able to step away from the life or face swift, certain, and legitimate accountability,” said MONSE’s Executive Director Shantay Jackson. “Ultimately, we want those engaged by the Group Violence Reduction Strategy to hear and understand the choice they are presented with, make the decision to accept the services offered through our partners YAP and Roca, and benefit from the positive consequences to their lives, the lives of those they love and who love them, and to our community.” 

MONSE is also partnered with the Baltimore City Police Department and the State’s Attorney’s Office in this effort, having launched their collaboration on GVRS in January 2022. According to MONSE, the strategy aims to “address the norms perpetuating violence in Baltimore by focusing resources on individuals identified as being at the highest acute risk of involvement in non-fatal shootings and homicides.”

This effort, coordinated and managed by MONSE, unites a wide spectrum of partners to engage community members impacted by violence. The collaboration includes social services, community members, and law enforcement, all of whom “collectively co-sign and deliver an anti-violence message to stop the shooting and offer program participants individually tailored resources to step away from violence,” according to MONSE officials.

Since 2023 began, the Western District has seen a 45.2% decrease in both non-fatal shootings and homicides over the same time period in 2022. The program expanded into the Southwestern District in January 2023, and that district has so far seen a 15.8% aggregate decrease in non-fatal shootings and homicides.

The GVRS program has conducted 67 custom notification referrals so far in 2023, wherein MONSE staff members, law enforcement, and community members offered their services to people in Baltimore who have been identified as being at risk of either perpetrating or becoming a victim of gun violence. These services range from life coaching, housing assistance, employment, emergency relocation, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Eleven participants have been offered and accepted services through YAP and Roca.

The program is only running in the Southwestern and Western Districts at this time. But in December 2022, Jackson and Mayor Brandon Scott announced plans to expand GVRS city-wide, with the projected timeline as follows:

  1. Southwestern – Q1 of 2023
  2. Central – Q2 of 2023
  3. Eastern – Q3 of 2023
  4. Southern – Q4 of 2023
  5. Northwestern and Southeastern – Q2 of 2024
  6. Northern and Northeastern – Q3 of 2024

“The YAP GVRS team sees firsthand every day the fruits of our labor and it matters to us personally because we’re supporting people from our neighborhoods who share backgrounds similar to our own,” said YAP’s Assistant Program Director Irene Conway. “This is an investment in individuals and families in our neighborhoods that connects people who want to make a change with the tools they need to make real contributions and give back to the community. This work takes commitment and love. We don’t look at it as transactional. It’s transformational.”

Roca Vice President of Maryland Kurt Palermo is looking forward to the ongoing collaboration.

“Roca is excited to continue its partnership with the City and MONSE to serve the young people most at risk to be victims and perpetrators of gun violence,” he said. “We know that behavior change takes time and we continue to work to improve the delivery of our Cognitive Behavioral Theory in order to best identify and address trauma,” he said. “We’re grateful to have the opportunity to work alongside community and criminal justice partners and Mayor Scott’s administration to reduce violence in Baltimore City.”

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