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Embracing Community Violence Intervention in Boston Communities and Nationwide
For decades, communities across the nation have been implementing community violence intervention strategies designed to promote community safety by interrupting patterns of violence in the lives of the highest-risk individuals. Yet too often, CVI programs have not received steady financial support or formal recognition for the important work that they do. To help fill critical resource gaps, the Office of Justice Programs launched the Community Based Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative in 2022, which is now supporting local leaders as they scale lifesaving interventions and cement these strategies as essential and enduring components of the public safety infrastructure. This historic federal investment, made possible – in part – by the landmark Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, is helping to build out community infrastructure as a complement to the vital role of law enforcement. It reflects a comprehensive approach to public safety that pairs effective and equitable policing with a robust infrastructure of community resources, and it helps bring us together around a shared vision of safe, healthy, and vibrant communities.
Investments in CVI are emblematic of our mission at the Office of Justice Programs: to advance community safety, build community trust and strengthen the community’s role as co-producer of safety and justice. Our efforts are most effective when we are working in close partnership with community leaders to expand opportunity, confront trauma and find effective, sustainable solutions that get to the root of community violence.
Announcing Awards for a New Cohort of CVI Organizations
In FY22, Office of Justice Programs made an unprecedented investment in organizations across the country to carry out the critical work of community violence intervention. Today, we are announcing more than $90 million in additional awards, bringing our total investment to nearly $200 million in support for over 75 CVI sites nationwide.
“These new investments will allow us to almost double the cohort of grantees, build on our momentum, and help establish CVI as a lasting pillar of this country’s public safety infrastructure,” — Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon.
The announcement was made in Lowell, Massachusetts at the UTEC Inc., along with several Boston area grantees spanning different types of CVI organizations from hospital-based intervention to research. UTEC Inc. is one of four organizations OJP is supporting in the Boston area, which also include Roca, the Boston Public Health Commission’s Violence Prevention Division, and Health Resources in Action. We are also investing in two research projects that will evaluate CVI initiatives here in Boston, helping to grow the evidence base around violence intervention.
“A driving factor behind the power of community violence intervention work is its recognition of the need for a comprehensive approach to best reducing violence in our local communities. This funding will allow us to engage those young adults with the support of staff with similar lived experience, ultimately creating paths for all to actualize their unique capacity to be the problem solvers our communities need most,” said Gregg Croteau, CEO, UTEC Inc.
Roca Inc. is expanding violence intervention services for young people. These services are designed to interrupt engagement in violence and create long-term behavioral change.
The Boston Public Health Commission is engaging high-risk individuals returning from incarceration for violent convictions, as well as their families and communities, through interventions rooted in the principles of restorative justice.
“The direct services grant will provide support and capacity building to returning citizens and their caregivers and engage them in trauma-informed community building in their neighborhoods,” said Tania M. Mireles, director of the Violence Intervention & Prevention Initiative with the Boston Public Health Commission. “Along with our practitioner partners, returning citizens and their caregivers will be integral members of both the Planning Team and the Implementation Advisory Team.”
Health Resources in Action is developing and implementing the Massachusetts Community Violence Intervention Capacity Building Initiative, which will deliver sub-awards and intensive training and technical assistance to build the capacity of community-based organizations implementing CVI strategies.
Research is another critical component of building impactful CVI strategies.
“Data-driven strategies and ongoing measurement of programmatic activities and impacts are essential to the CVI model,” said Nancy La Vigne, Director of OJP’s National Institute of Justice.
Suffolk University, one new CVI research grantee, is engaging in an evaluation of Boston’s Community-based Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative, funded by OJP and led by the Boston Public Health Commission.
“The research and evaluation grant will engage practitioners, CVI-funded clients, and community members in shaping the final research design, collecting data, and interpreting results,” said Erika Gebo, a Suffolk University professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice.
A grant awarded to American Institutes for Research, in partnership with WestEd, will help develop and test a model for evaluating ecosystem approaches to preventing violence, with the goal of producing a violence intervention and prevention intercept model. This evaluation acknowledges that jurisdictions engage in a variety of violence reduction strategies led by different agency and community stakeholders, requiring an assessment approach that documents coordination dynamics across the community. The research pays particular focus to Boston’s hospital-based violence intervention and prevention efforts, designed to serve priority populations at risk for violence in Boston.
“While the evidence base continues to grow around what works in violence intervention, prevention and reduction, community violence remains a significant problem without easy solutions or comprehensive assessment. Too often, hospital and community-based violence intervention programs are siloed even though they are serving the same priority population, and young people are falling through the gaps between providers. We hope that through our new project funded by NIJ, and developed in Boston, we can help cities understand their ecosystem of violence intervention and prevention strategies, improve efficiency, collaboration, and data sharing among ecosystem partners, and elevate the voices of those cycling through the ecosystem,” said Dr. Patricia Campie, principal investigator for American Institutes for Research.
In addition to the newly announced CVIPI awards, OJP is investing in the Health Alliance for Violence Intervention, a Boston-based training and technical assistance provider, to expand expert support for hospital-based violence intervention programs funded by OJP.
OJP Advances National CVI Efforts
Community leaders have been supporting CVI strategies for decades, often without any formal recognition of their role in advancing community safety. In recent years, government officials and the public alike have started to recognize the value and importance of community violence intervention.
OJP’s investments represent an unprecedented federal commitment to CVI strategies, reaching communities in 29 states and territories nationwide.
“Yet we still have a long way to go to ensure that CVI strategies are fully integrated into our community safety infrastructure, as an integral complement to policing,” said Solomon. “We're working to change the narrative and culture around community safety to recognize that safety is a collective endeavor that demands collaboration between the justice system, residents and partners across the public and private sectors. No single entity or one type of strategy can deliver public safety; we need a continuum of prevention, intervention, enforcement and rehabilitation services to reach our shared goals of safety and justice for all.”