Engaging local community leaders and residents early and often is key to ensuring local buy-in and community ownership of chosen solutions.
Building trust and relationships with community members takes time. Patience with the process and relationship-building helps ensure solutions have roots that will grow.
Providing for adaptability and evaluation of what does and does not work will allow for greater effectiveness and sustainability of strategies. This is especially important in areas where many pilot projects and innovative ideas have arisen and then died down quickly when immediate results were not achieved.
Shifting to community-driven and prevention-focused approaches is not always easy. Because traditional law-enforcement and punitive approaches are deeply ingrained and heavily resourced, partners must be willing to go against the tide at times.
Providing residents with opportunities to learn from peers in other locations who have successfully implemented prevention solutions is key.
This report offers early lessons and recommendations from work the Annie E. Casey Foundation is supporting in Atlanta and Milwaukee to prevent gun violence. These communities are part of a national movement to increase safety and heal trauma by examining root causes and addressing these issues from a public health and racial justice perspective. Residents in both cities are shaping and leading safety strategies with the support of local nonprofits and other public and private partners. Their stories highlight the many ways that philanthropic and system leaders can help catalyze alternative public safety models and support their development and implementation — including helping to establish a new narrative about what it takes to keep communities safe and building and sharing evidence on effective public health interventions.
As the work featured in this report shows, both public and private entities have roles to play in supporting a public health approach to safety. Residents in Atlanta, with funding and support from Casey and other investors, established a neighborhood-based advisory group and began implementing the Cure Violence model. In Milwaukee, another place where the Foundation is supporting Cure Violence, the movement to reimagine public safety is being driven by the city’s Office of Violence Prevention. Each community developed strategies and programs based on local goals, needs and circumstances. One common thread underpinning their efforts has been the purposeful engagement and inclusion of people living in the areas directly affected by violence.
Gun violence is a public health epidemic that must be addressed with preventive measures developed with input from communities.
Findings & Stats About Community Safety
A Public Health Model to Reduce Gun Violence
The Cure Violence model has worked internationally and in major U.S. cities such as Chicago, where it led to a significant reduction in shootings — up to 73% — within the neighborhoods where it was implemented.
Community Safety in NPU-V
In March 2021, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms pledged $5 million to help expand Cure Violence throughout the city, citing the success of the NPU-V pilot.
A City-Led Plan
Following the launch of the Blueprint for Peace and 414LIFE, homicides in Milwaukee declined markedly. From 2017 to 2019, for instance, the number dropped from 119 to 98.
Statements & Quotations
The work with CHRIS 180 [in Atlanta], and the exposure to other approaches from across the country, has allowed residents to innovate and adapt effective models to meet the specific needs of their neighborhoods. When communities are safe, we are better able to make progress in the other aspects of family well-being.
– Natallie Keiser, senior associate, the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Milwaukee built a movement and raised the profile of violence as a public health issue across the city. Instead of people seeing violence as an unsolvable issue we could do nothing about, it became understood that it is a systemic, learned behavior, for which new approaches can have an impact. It has inspired hope.
– Reggie Moore, former director, Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention
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