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Scott Administration Holds First Meeting Of Group Violence Reduction Strategy Partners

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Emily Sullivan/WYPR
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Baltimore City Hall.

About 75 of Baltimore’s Group Violence Reduction Strategy partners, a critical component of Mayor Brandon Scott’s crime plan, are to meet for the first time on Monday.

The group aims to reduce gang-related shootings and homicides and bolster trust between communities and the Baltimore Police Department through coordinated effort between its members, which include officials from BPD, the State’s Attorney Office, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland and City Hall as well as community and neighborhood association groups.

The GVRS is not unique to Baltimore but a common tactic to reduce crime based on the theory of focused deterrence. Such strategies employ law enforcement, government officials, social service providers and community members to communicate the risks and consequences of violent crime to at-risk populations, as well as offer assistance and alternatives before crime occurs. They hinge on the belief that officials can lower violence with targeted intervention.

The Scott administration’s GVRS is the third implementation. Former Mayors Kurt Schmoke and Stephanie Rawlings Blake tried it in the late 1990’s and 2014.

Those attempts failed due to an overall lack of willingness to see the strategy through, said Shantay Jackson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, who will oversee GVRS meetings.

She cited three reasons for previous GVRS failures: lack of political will, failure to provide promised wraparound support for people at risk of committing violent crime and failure to train law enforcement officers “in addressing the level of direct communication that has to happen with this particular population.”

“What's different is our commitment,” she said. “This is a strategic approach that is well proven and well evidenced when you stay the course. That's what's different this time around.”

She points to Oakland, where officials have used the strategy to reduce gun homicides by 31.5% and shootings by 20% over seven years, according to researchers from Northwest University. Monday’s meeting will partially consist of lessons learned by officials in the California city, including their failures.

Officials will launch the Scott administration’s GVRS intervention in the Western District, in neighborhoods with high rates of gun violence. The Scott administration will closely study monthly data on shootings and crime in the area before expanding the strategy to the rest of the city, Jackson said.

Scott announced his crime plan, which he pledged would reduce gun violence by 15% annually, earlier this summer. It spells out a multi-agency approach to combat violence in Baltimore over the next five years.