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Baltimore officials tout successful impact of Mayor's Group Violence Reduction Strategy

P. Kenneth Burns

Standing inside the sanctuary of Doxa Ministries Church Without Walls, a Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS) participant shared how the services provided have changed his life.

Keko Thompson’s testimony was part of Baltimore City officials press conference Wednesday that announced impacts of the 14-month program.

I can do better things in my life than standing outside on the corners dedicating myself to the wrong things,” said Thompson.

He is one of 87 people receiving services ranging from counseling, housing, or emergency relocation to step away from street life.

“Our Group Violence Reduction Strategy relies on a balance of positive and punitive consequences to ensure individuals most at-risk of being involved in gun violence – either as a perpetrator or victim – are able to step away from the life or face swift, certain, and legitimate accountability,” said Shantay Jackson, MONSE executive director.

Since the beginning of 2023, the Western District has seen a 45.2 percent, year-over-year decrease in both non-fatal shootings and homicides, maintaining its rank as the least violent among other historically chronically violent districts in the city.

Since expansion into the Southwestern District in January 2023, 11 people have been offered and accepted services. The Southwestern has also seen a 15.8 percent aggregate decrease in non-fatal shootings and homicides.

36-year-old Thompson began working with a life coach, and says he’s been able to maintain a steady job.

“I got my forklift driver license,” said Thompson. “I’ve worked for six months and it’s the longest I’ve had a job in my whole life.”

Dr. Lavern Murray is a pastor at Doxa Ministries Church Without Walls. She’s also involved with GVRS.

“We have a bunch of resources,” said Murray. “People won’t change because of resources.We have to get to the heart. We have to talk with people and let them know that destruction is not your destiny.”

In December, Mayor Brandon Scott announced plans to expand the program citywide. City officials say they are on track to operate the program in three more districts this year.

Wambui Kamau is a General Assignment Reporter for WYPR. @WkThee
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