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Community violence prevention strategies are working, says mayor. Programs will expand

Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott, a Democrat, is halfway through his first term in office which he began with a pledge to reduce gun violence by 15% every year. Standing cheek to jowl with dozens of other community leaders in the crowded mainroom of Challenge 2 Change, a non-profit men’s empowerment program based in Northeast Baltimore, he told members of the press that his strategies are working.

Last year, Scott used $10 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding to launch the Community Violence Intervention Ecosystem– a network of 44 partner agencies with the mission of reducing gun violence throughout the city. The program uses Safe Streets, the city’s premier gun reduction program, as the anchor to connect victims of gun violence to the hospital systems, public health programs and other wraparound services.

Officials touted the program’s successes on Tuesday morning, citing that shootings are down compared to this time last year when the CVI ecosystem launched.

But there’s one place where that trend hasn’t held: gun violence among people under 18 is rising.

“As a city, even as we stand here today, with a year over year 19% reduction in homicides and 18% reduction in non-fatal shootings we are still losing way too many people. More specifically, young people,” said Mayor Scott.

As the CVI ecosystem gets into its second-year, its community partners will expand into the three high-schools where leadership has determined the highest need for anti-violence programs: Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School (Mervo), Digital Harbor Academy and Carver Vocational School. At the beginning of the next school year those schools will have three dedicated staff members who will work on various aspects of violence reduction and student enrichment.

“We want to reduce the instances of violence coming to the school doors, and anything that happens in schools from traveling outside into neighborhoods,” said Crystal Miller, a program director for the CVI ecosystem.

Scott formed the CVI with Safe Streets, the city’s premier gun reduction program, as the anchor. Through the CVI, Safe Streets is now connected to local hospital systems, public health programs and other wraparound services to service those who have been affected, or those at risk of being affected, by gun violence.

Safe Streets will get an additional $5 million in ARPA funding to continue their work. A Johns Hopkins analysis completed earlier this year found that since its 2007 inception, Safe Streets is associated with a 23% reduction in non-fatal shootings across all 11 of its sites.

Mayor Scott began his term with a pledge to reduce gun violence by 15% every year. Now, halfway through his first-term he is under pressure to prove he can follow through on that promise. After increasing the police budget by $5 million last year, the mayor has now put an emphasis on community programs rather than policing to reduce violence.

“We know that this is not something that we can police our way out of,” said Scott. “Approaching violence reduction through a lens of public health means strengthening our strategy that simultaneously unearthed the root causes of violence.”

Scott introduced his budget proposal for FY 2024 earlier this month. Police funding remains flat, but certain community-based violence programs like the Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS) are slated to expand.

Emily is a general assignment news reporter for WYPR.
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