The Casey Foundation’s Approach to Community Safety

Posted December 23, 2020, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Blog communitysafety 2020

To thrive and grow, young peo­ple and their fam­i­lies should feel safe in their communities.

Yet, many peo­ple — includ­ing a dis­pro­por­tion­ate share of youth of col­or — grow up in neigh­bor­hoods marred by vio­lence. In this envi­ron­ment, edu­ca­tion­al and eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties are lim­it­ed, and the trau­ma inflict­ed can last a lifetime.

This is why, over the last sev­er­al years, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion has sup­port­ed com­mu­ni­ty-led efforts to pre­vent vio­lence and pro­mote heal­ing local­ly. In addi­tion, Casey has invest­ed in nation­al net­works that are treat­ing this issue as an urgent pub­lic health mat­ter and work­ing to reduce the role that the jus­tice sys­tem plays in pre­vent­ing violence.

As the nation grap­ples with ques­tions about the appro­pri­ate approach to polic­ing and address­ing com­mu­ni­ty vio­lence, the time has come to explore new visions and strate­gies to keep com­mu­ni­ties safe,” says Amoret­ta Mor­ris, direc­tor of Nation­al Com­mu­ni­ty Strate­gies for the Casey Foun­da­tion. Vio­lence is a pub­lic health mat­ter, and com­pre­hen­sive com­mu­ni­ty and envi­ron­men­tal inter­ven­tions are emerg­ing as key mea­sures to address vio­lence at its roots.”

How Casey is invest­ing in com­mu­ni­ty safety

Casey’s sup­port so far includes:

  • Advanc­ing pro­grams that rely on cred­i­ble mes­sen­gers” to inter­rupt vio­lence. The Foun­da­tion has helped com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions imple­ment a vio­lence pre­ven­tion mod­el called Cure Vio­lence in a num­ber of cities — includ­ing Bal­ti­more, Mil­wau­kee, and Baton Rouge, La. — as well as six pri­mar­i­ly Black neigh­bor­hoods in Atlanta’s south­side. The Cure Vio­lence mod­el treats shoot­ings like an epi­dem­ic that must be stopped before spread­ing and relies on cred­i­ble mes­sen­gers — peo­ple with strong com­mu­ni­ty ties — who inter­vene when vio­lence or retal­i­a­tion is like­ly to occur.
  • Imple­ment­ing pre­ven­tion strate­gies at hos­pi­tals. The Health Alliance for Vio­lence Inter­ven­tion, a Casey part­ner, sup­ports hos­pi­tal-based vio­lence inter­ven­tion pro­grams. These pro­grams enlist staff and com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions in coun­sel­ing patients with vio­lent injuries and help con­nect the vic­tims to ser­vices and sup­ports — such as finan­cial assis­tance and men­tal health care — when reen­ter­ing the com­mu­ni­ty. Anoth­er exam­ple: Casey has invest­ed in the long-term eval­u­a­tion of Heal­ing Hurt Peo­ple, a hos­pi­tal-based inter­ven­tion pro­gram oper­at­ing in five trau­ma cen­ters across Philadelphia.
  • Sup­port­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to heal. CHRIS 180, a Casey part­ner based in Atlanta, hosts reg­u­lar heal­ing cir­cles” for res­i­dents who have been exposed to com­mu­ni­ty vio­lence. Dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, these ses­sions shift­ed online.
  • Advo­cat­ing for greater invest­ment in com­mu­ni­ty vio­lence inter­ven­tion. Nation­al Casey part­ners, like the Com­mu­ni­ty Jus­tice Reform Coali­tion, have led or fund­ed local cam­paigns to pro­mote vio­lence inter­ven­tion efforts. These part­ners have helped ensure that Black and brown peo­ple — includ­ing young women and also trans­gen­der, gen­der non­con­form­ing and queer youth of col­or — are includ­ed in craft­ing solu­tions to vio­lence. Casey also sup­ports the Fund for a Safer Future, a net­work of fun­ders that invests in com­mu­ni­ty-based efforts to address vio­lence and advance pol­i­cy reform.
  • Research­ing com­mu­ni­ty vio­lence. In 2019, Casey sup­port­ed a spe­cial edi­tion of Health Affairs, the nation’s lead­ing health-pol­i­cy jour­nal. The edi­tion, which focused on the inter­sec­tion of com­mu­ni­ty safe­ty and health, includ­ed arti­cles that high­light­ed the need for com­mu­ni­ty-based strate­gies to curb violence.

Why invest in com­mu­ni­ty safety?

The toll that vio­lence takes on fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties is well-doc­u­ment­ed. Gun vio­lence sti­fles eco­nom­ic growth and low­ers home val­ues. Expo­sure to vio­lence also increas­es feel­ings of lone­li­ness and pokes holes in sup­port­ive safe­ty nets, accord­ing to research.

Safe com­mu­ni­ties, on the oth­er hand, enable young peo­ple and fam­i­lies to thrive and reach their full poten­tial. Embrac­ing com­mu­ni­ty-led solu­tions to vio­lence should result in:

  • few­er peo­ple involved in the jus­tice and juve­nile jus­tice systems;
  • greater trust among com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and in pub­lic institutions;
  • more active, vibrant com­mu­ni­ties where fam­i­lies feel safe and sup­port­ed; and
  • greater use of pub­lic spaces and busi­ness­es, which bol­sters eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty and job creation.

Address­ing com­mu­ni­ty vio­lence to achieve greater equity

Peo­ple of col­or — and espe­cial­ly young Black men — are more like­ly than white peo­ple to expe­ri­ence vio­lence, accord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. Lati­no and Native Amer­i­can men are also more like­ly than white men to die from vio­lence, accord­ing to the CDC.

Address­ing vio­lence means address­ing a major racial and eth­nic health dis­par­i­ty that holds back com­mu­ni­ties of col­or,” Mor­ris says. We hope that local lead­ers — includ­ing fun­ders and gov­ern­ment offi­cials — rec­og­nize the impor­tance of reduc­ing vio­lence to pro­mote healthy com­mu­ni­ties and then begin to take action with com­mu­ni­ty-based vio­lence interventions.”

Are you a fun­der? Learn about how to join the Fund for a Safer Future

Read about how vio­lence-inter­ven­tion pro­grams have pro­vid­ed vital ser­vices dur­ing the pandemic

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