Group Violence Intervention

Goal:  To reduce violent crime and gang violence through a strategy of prevention, intervention and suppression.
History:  First demonstrated as Operation Ceasefire in Boston in 1996.  The original strategy was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and co-directed by David M. Kennedy, Anthony Braga and Anne M. Piehl of Harvard University.  The program is now affiliated with the National Network for Safe Communities and has been implemented nationally in over 30 cities.  Different cities call the program by different titles.

Facts You Should Know:
Core Elements of Program:  GVI has repeatedly demonstrated that violence can be dramatically reduced when a partnership of community members, law enforcement and social service providers directly engages with the small and active number of people involved in street groups and clearly communicates a credible moral message against violence, prior notice about the consequences of further violence, and a genuine offer of help for those who want it.  Research on the GVI method has found a profound connection between serious violence and highly active criminal groups.  A typical city-level finding is that groups representing under 0.5% of the city’s population will be connected as offenders, victims or both in 50-75% of all homicides in the city.

  1. “Call-ins” are a central method of communication. They create an opportunity for offenders serving probation and parole sentences for violent crimes and currently involved with gangs/groups to meet resource partners and law enforcement officers face to face.  Offenders attend call-ins by “invitation only.”  If you get an invitation it means you and your group are already on local, state & federal radars.
  2. “Pulling Levers:” Each participant is warned that from this point forward, she/he is targeted for vigorous prosecution if the violence does not stop. Those who participate/cooperate are offered incentives such as assistance with job training, housing, childcare, relocation, getting driver’s license, help clearing warrants, mentoring, etc. depending on the resources of the city.
  3. It is vital that those who participate/cooperate are connected with assistance promised.  The program seeks to reduce recidivism and future arrests.

Evaluations:
* The majority of cities participating in GVI programs reported reductions in homicides and shootings.  In Boston, the city that developed Ceasefire, the average monthly number of youth homicides dropped by 63 percent in the two years after it was launched.  In Pittsburgh, homicides hit a 12 year low in 2017.  In Newburgh NY, shootings went from 55 victims in 2015 to 17 in 2017.  Oakland CA began the program in 2012 with 126 murders; in 2017 the total was 74.  New Haven CT went from 13 homicides in 2016 to 7 in 2017.  Law enforcement officials credit GVI strategy for the declines.
* A Campbell Collaboration systematic review of focused deterrence strategies known as “pulling levers” found a statistically significant positive effect on reducing crime.  Group/ gang intervention programs had the largest effect.
* The National Institute of Justice’s Crime Solutions website gives the program its highest evidence rating, one of few programs which received the designation.  Details at www.crimesolutions.gov

For More Information:  
National Network for Safe Communities, “Group Violence Intervention,” https://nnscommunities.org/our-work/strategy/group-violence-intervention
Lois Beckett, “How the Gun Control Debate Ignores Black Lives,” Pro Publica, Nov. 24 2015.  https://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-gun-control-debate-ignores-black-lives
Anthony Braga and David Weisburd, “The effects of ‘pulling levers’ focused deterrence strategies on crime,” Campbell Collaboration, March 4 2012.  https://www.campbellcollaboration.org/library/pulling-levers-focused-deterrence-strategies-effects-on-crime.html