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New Policing Strategy Part Of Decline In Pittsburgh Gun Violence

Police, communities employing Group Violence Intervention

October 18, 2018 - 10:44 am
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By Jennifer Bloodworth for NewsRadio 1020 KDKA

PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) — Gun violence hit a 12-year low in Pittsburgh in 2017 and the 2018 numbers show the trend continuing.

Police Commander Victor Joseph says the reduction can be attributed to many factors, but much of the success is due to the department's "Group Violence Intervention" strategy.

“GVI is a three-pronged approach. There’s law enforcement, there’s outreach and there’s social services.”

GVI seeks to combat group violence in the city, often a contributing factor to gun violence increases. 

The GVI approach is different from high-contact policing often seen in high-crime areas. Although Joseph says there are still data-driven patrols, GVI looks to work with community members to solve the causes of violence.

The method employs “custom notifications,” one-on-one meetings with those at-risk for becoming involved with or falling victim to group violence.

“The message that we give them is that your life is valuable, that we do not want to see you dead, we do not want to see you incarcerated,” Joseph said. “We want you to be a valuable, productive member of society and we want to help you do that.”

The meeting may be conducted with GVI detectives or officers in the outreach division, and may even bring in community members involved in GVI to discuss the risks and solutions with those at-risk.

“The message that we give them is that your life is valuable, that we do not want to see you dead, we do not want to see you incarcerated,” Joseph said. “We want you to be a valuable, productive member of society and we want to help you do that.”

Custom notifications are tailored to the individual, and see to identify risk factors and find resources to eliminate them.

“Some families it may be they don’t have food on the table right now,” Joseph gave as one example.

“So through our outreach workers and our outreach coordinator, they’re able to put them with some service providers that can help them in that area.”

Last year, there were 93 non-fatal shootings in the city at the start of October; this year, 75. Homicides have dropped from 47 to 40.

Joseph credits the continued decline in gun and group violence in the city in-part to GVI’s rebuilding of community-police relations.

“I think with our relationship building that’s going on, I think some of the community norms are changing and we’re getting a lot more cooperation than we have in the past.”

Pittsburgh Police will use a state grant of $250,000 secured last month to expand the GVI community outreach footprint, hoping to involve local residents even further in helping end violence in their own neighborhoods.

“Any time we have community cooperation, it makes our job so much easier.”

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