Violence Prevention Index Provides Scorecard for Cities

Posted April 1, 2024
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Older black woman sits at a table in a library talking to two other people; she has a clipboard in her hand.

Com­mu­ni­ty Jus­tice recent­ly released its 2023 Vio­lence Pre­ven­tion Index, an eval­u­a­tion of the fund­ing, infra­struc­ture and resources U.S. cities ded­i­cate to com­mu­ni­ty vio­lence prevention.

Fund­ed in part by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, the report assess­es the 100 munic­i­pal­i­ties with the high­est rates of gun vio­lence in 2021 and 2022.

Down­load the Report

The [Vio­lence Pre­ven­tion Index, or VPI] is the first tool specif­i­cal­ly cre­at­ed to deter­mine which cities are best pre­pared to address com­mu­ni­ty vio­lence,” says Tim­me­ka Perkins, a com­mu­ni­ty safe­ty expert and senior asso­ciate with the Foun­da­tion. The index pro­vides deci­sion mak­ers with a frame­work for com­pre­hen­sive plans around vio­lence reduc­tion and allows them to assess gaps and progress.”

What Is the Vio­lence Pre­ven­tion Index?

The index eval­u­ates cities’ cur­rent vio­lence pre­ven­tion invest­ments to give pol­i­cy­mak­ers and com­mu­ni­ties a frame­work for reduc­ing vio­lence using a com­pre­hen­sive pub­lic health model.

The VPI grades cities based on cat­e­gories that include:

  • inter­ven­tion programs;
  • risk fac­tor reduction;
  • root caus­es of vio­lence; and
  • offices of vio­lence prevention.

The 2023 Vio­lence Pre­ven­tion Index under­scores the urgent need for cities to inten­si­fy their com­mit­ment to com­bat­ing gun vio­lence through com­pre­hen­sive, pub­lic health-informed strate­gies,” says Amber Good­win, founder of Com­mu­ni­ty Jus­tice, a non­prof­it devot­ed to pro­mot­ing gun vio­lence pre­ven­tion through pol­i­cy and lead­er­ship devel­op­ment. As we wit­ness incre­men­tal progress, it’s clear that deep­er invest­ments in com­mu­ni­ty vio­lence inter­ven­tion to address the root caus­es of vio­lence are essential.”

Vio­lence Pre­ven­tion Index Findings

The 2023 index’s key find­ings include:

  • The aver­age score of VPI-rat­ed cities increased from 25 out of 100 pos­si­ble points in 2022 to 32 out of 100 in 2023.
  • Forty-one per­cent of cities have a strate­gic vio­lence pre­ven­tion plan in place that incor­po­rates pub­lic health strate­gies, a 3% improve­ment over the pre­vi­ous year.
  • The num­ber of local health depart­ments with a vio­lence pre­ven­tion strat­e­gy decreased from 36% in 2022 to 30% in 2023.
  • The num­ber of cities invest­ing in out­reach-based vio­lence inter­ven­tion strate­gies remained almost iden­ti­cal between 2022 (64%) and 2023 (63%).
  • Cities per­formed poor­est in the cat­e­go­ry relat­ed to address­ing the root caus­es of violence.
  • More cities are cre­at­ing local offices of vio­lence pre­ven­tion, with 52% of rat­ed cities meet­ing this stan­dard in 2023 com­pared to 42% in 2022.

Com­mu­ni­ty Safe­ty Recommendations

To ensure that cities can mean­ing­ful­ly address com­mu­ni­ty vio­lence, the 2023 VPI report tasks pol­i­cy­mak­ers with:

  • Invest­ing in proven pro­grams and poli­cies. By fund­ing pro­grams that stop vio­lence before it begins, instead of those that only react to vio­lence, cities can address the inequities that lead to com­mu­ni­ty violence.
  • Ensur­ing these pro­grams can con­tin­ue long term. As recent tem­po­rary fed­er­al fund­ing streams — like the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan — come to an end, cities must make new vio­lence pre­ven­tion pro­grams a per­ma­nent part of annu­al oper­at­ing budgets.

Good­win notes, This report not only high­lights where we are mak­ing strides but also where we must redou­ble our efforts to ensure every com­mu­ni­ty — espe­cial­ly Black and brown com­mu­ni­ties dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly impact­ed by this cri­sis — can live free from the fear of gun violence.”

Learn about the Com­mu­ni­ty Vio­lence Inter­ven­tion Lead­er­ship Academy

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