South Bend Group Violence Intervention
Working to Reduce Group-Initiated Gun Violence
Learn more about the Group Violence Intervention at the National Network for Safe Communities.
There’s nothing more wonderful than a proven model. It changes the question from “What should we do about this problem?” to “How can we do what they’re doing, only better?”
That’s why the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County is helping to fund and coordinate the South Bend Group Violence Intervention (SBGVI), a promising new partnership among representatives from the Mayor’s Anti-Violence Coalition, local law enforcement, government, education, health care, and social service agencies.
The problem: gun violence. Each year, somewhere in the range of eight to 16 people are shot dead in our community. Scores more are injured by gunfire, often permanently. Most of the victims and the perpetrators are young black men who are involved in groups or gangs. Only a very small percentage of our community’s young black men are engaged in violent behavior, and law enforcement and community members generally know who they are.
The cost of this violence is devastating. Lives are wasted, either through death or prison. Hearts are broken. Mothers are deprived of their sons, and children are deprived of their fathers. All young black men are stigmatized because of the crimes of a few. Entire neighborhoods fall into steep decline because they are deemed unsafe.
The solution: the Group Violence Intervention developed by David Kennedy, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and co-chair of the National Network for Safe Communities.
Because most community violence is caused by a very small number of people, it’s possible to intervene. According to Kennedy, “The cities that recognize this fact are creating community-based interventions with a laser-like focus on the people and places driving violence.”
The GVI relies on direct communication with the people who are most likely to shoot or get shot. This communication happens through a “call-in” during which law enforcement representatives, influential community members, and social service providers deliver a clear message: The violence is hurting our community and has to stop. Help will be offered to those who choose to stop the violence. Local law enforcement agencies will work together to ensure consequences are severe for those who don’t. As Chief of Police Ron Teachman describes it, “We will help you if you let us. We will stop you if you make us.” South Bend's first call-in took place in May: More than 20 individuals on probabtion or parole took part.
When GVI is properly implemented, violence is dramatically reduced. To help ensure South Bend achieves the same results as cities such as Chicago and Cincinnati, a group of local funders has retained David Kennedy and his team at John Jay College to provide intensive training, technical assistance, and peer-learning exchanges. In addition to the Community Foundation and the African American Community Fund, funders include Memorial Hospital, Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, and the University of Notre Dame.