Evaluating Community-Level Solutions for Gun Violence
“The Violence Reduction Strategy and similar interventions need to be part of a comprehensive strategy against violence that addresses police-community trust and the lack of police legitimacy in communities burdened by pervasive violence.”
Read more: Put The Guns Down
The Chicago Violence Reduction Strategy (VRS) combines collective accountability and provision of social services to deliver antiviolence messages to street groups at high risk for involvement in shootings. “Credible messengers”—former members of the street groups—collaborate with law enforcement to implore group members to stop the violence and present the severe consequences they will face if they don’t. The goal is to better broadcast community-wide standards against violence, provide services to group members, and use targeted enforcement to deter violence.
Our evaluation found that VRS was associated with a 23 percent reduction in overall shooting patterns and a 32 percent reduction in shooting victimization among participating groups. But surveys and interviews with street group members and criminal justice stakeholders revealed a more complex story: high levels of mutual mistrust between law enforcement and community members.
The Chicago VRS evaluation is one of several Urban Institute projects illustrating solutions that can capably address gun violence, as well as illuminating facilitators and barriers to effectiveness. Others, like the Los Angeles Gang Reduction and Youth Development program, have reinforced the importance of a comprehensive and coordinated approach.
Gun violence inflicts a devastating toll on communities of color, but the justice system response to this violence frequently destabilizes neighborhoods and damages police-community relations. To develop a better response, the Urban Institute, Joyce Foundation, and Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies convened more than 100 people from communities affected by violence. We learned that violence prevention demands a holistic set of solutions. Limiting access to firearms is part of the solution, but a comprehensive strategy will also require improving police-community relations, investing in community services, and facilitating community leadership in violence prevention efforts.