Group Violence Intervention

Photo: Ronny Salerno
Cincinnati is one of the National Network for Safe Communities' Leadership Group sites that achieved 
substantial reductions in group violence. The Cincinnati Initiatve to Reduce Violence (CIRV) governance 
structure has served as a model for other sites.

The group violence reduction strategy, sometimes referred to as “Operation Ceasefire”, after its original implementation in Boston, is now a well-proven approach.  The evidence for the efficacy of this approach to reduce group-related violence has accumulated over a decade and is extremely persuasive. 

The strategy is unusual, but based on common sense and practical experience.  Violence in troubled neighborhoods is caused predominantly by a remarkably small and active number of people locked in group dynamics on the street: gangs, drug crews, and the like.  The internal dynamics of these groups and the “honor” code of the street drive violence between groups and individuals.  The individuals that comprise these groups typically constitute less than 0.5 percent of a city’s population.

The strategy holds that violence can be dramatically reduced when community members and law enforcement join together to directly engage with these groups and clearly communicate:  (1) a credible, moral message against violence; (2) a credible law enforcement message about the consequences of further violence; and (3) a genuine offer of help for those who want it.  To do this, a partnership of law enforcement, social service providers, and community actors – parents, ministers, gang outreach workers, neighborhood associations, ex-offenders, and others – must be assembled and must engage in a sustained relationship with violent groups. 

The key moment in the strategy is a “call-in,” or “notification,” repeated as necessary: a face-to-face meeting between gang members and the partnership.   The partners deliver key messages to gang members:  that the violence is wrong and has to stop; that the community needs them alive and out of prison and with their loved ones; that help is available to all who would accept it; and that any future violence will be met with clear, predictable, and certain consequences. 

A substantial body of research in support of the efficacy of the group violence reduction strategy has been assembled over the past 15 years.  Please go to Research Findings for a list of Essential Readings or a Full Index of the research available to date.

Listen to National Network Co-Chair Director David Kennedy outline the strategy