Texas should invest in community violence intervention by creating a statewide office of violence prevention and supporting local community violence intervention programs. These proven efforts target resources to individuals who are at the greatest risk of gunshot victimization, thereby reducing gun violence and deaths.
Community violence is the experience of intentional acts of interpersonal violence committed in public spaces by individuals who are not closely related. Community violence often occurs in under-resourced city neighborhoods and disproportionately impacts Black and Hispanic/Latino communities. Community violence is often sparked by a dispute between individuals or groups and may occur suddenly without warning or be retaliatory as a result of long-standing conflicts. In addition to suffering from the impact of gun violence, these communities live with the ongoing trauma of injuries, lack of support, scarcity of resources and reduced quality of life.
Black Americans are greater than ten times more likely to be murdered by firearm than their White counterparts. Young Black males ages 15-34 make up 2% of the U.S. population but account for 37% of all firearm homicide victims. Texas Department of Public Safety data shows Black Texans were victims of homicides at a higher rate than white Texans, despite only being 12.2% of the state’s population. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for Black males ages 15-34. Young Black females ages 15-24 are seven times more likely to be murdered by firearm than their White counterparts.
Hispanic/Latino Americans are more than twice as likely to be murdered by firearms than White Americans. Hispanic/Latino males ages 15-34 are 3.4 times more likely to be murdered by firearm than their White counterparts. Young Hispanic/Latino females ages 15-24 are nearly twice as likely to be murdered by firearm than White females.
For too long, violence has plagued communities of color. Community-based programs have proven to be effective in reducing violence in urban areas and within communities suffering disproportionately from violence, and Texas lawmakers should invest in these communities by prioritizing funding for targeted approaches to ending community violence and adopting HB 690 to create a statewide Office of Violence Prevention.
Community Violence Intervention (CVI) programs focus on reducing interpersonal violence by establishing relationships with the people living in these communities who are at the highest risk of becoming victims, perpetrators — or both — of violence. CVI utilizes a public health approach by creating an ecosystem of programs that work together to reduce violence. There are four primary intervention programs:
Hospital-Based Violence Intervention (HVI) programs:
HVI is a specific, evidence-based, violence intervention methodology that involves partnerships between hospitals and frontline and community agencies. Beginning at the point of injury, victims are offered wrap-around services and support, including case management, to reduce the risk of re-injury or of becoming perpetrators themselves. A prior injury is a major risk factor for re-injury.
One study found that those enrolled in HVI programs were six times less likely to be hospitalized again for a violent injury and four times less likely to be convicted of a violent crime than those not enrolled in the program. Likewise, an evaluation of Baltimore’s program found that it saved the city $1.25 million in lowered incarceration costs and $598,000 in reduced healthcare costs.
Street Outreach Programs:
Organizations such as Cure Violence and Advance Peace offer training for formerly incarcerated, former gang members and others from urban communities to learn how to mediate, intercede and mentor the young people who are at the highest risk of becoming embroiled in community violence. These two organizations utilize different models, both of which have had success in reducing community violence.
Targeted Trauma-Informed Care Programs:
Trauma-informed programs that employ cognitive behavioral therapy for those at risk for community violence have experienced significant decreases in interpersonal violence. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps high-risk individuals cope with trauma while simultaneously providing new tools to de-escalate conflict. Trauma-informed programs in Chicago that provide high risk youth with cognitive behavioral therapy and mentoring cut violent crime arrests in half.
Group Violence Intervention (GVI) Programs:
In the GVI/“Focused Deterrence” model, prosecutors and police work with community leaders to identify a small group of individuals who are chronic violent offenders and are at high risk for future violence. Under this model, leaders call high-risk individuals into a meeting and communicate that if violence continues, they will use every available legal tool to ensure that perpetrators face swift and certain consequences. These high-risk individuals are simultaneously connected to social services and community support to assist them in changing their behavior.
An analysis of 24 focused deterrence programs found that these strategies led to an overall statistically significant reduction in firearm violence. The most successful of these programs have reduced violent crime in cities by an average of 30% and improved relations between law enforcement officers and the neighborhoods they serve.