• Support and Outreach

    The National Network has begun to frame a new "support and outreach" structure carefully tailored to the core street population, its situation, and its needs.

About the Innovation
Tools & Guides

A key principle of the National Network for Safe Communities is to offer help to the core population of high-risk people on the street. The National Network has typically framed this component of its strategies as “social services.” However, despite the best efforts of all concerned, it has shown little impact on violence reduction or improving the lives of group members. Working with its national partners, the National Network has begun to frame a new “support and outreach” structure carefully tailored to the core street population, its situation, and its needs. The core street population the National Network engages is both the most active and the most vulnerable to be found. Addressing homicide and serious violence means addressing them, but existing social service practices simply do not work for this population.

The National Network and its partners have developed and begun to implement a new support and outreach structure with the following characteristics:

  • Keeping people alive and out of prison. This structure will create a comprehensive partnership of providers with an explicit goal of keeping offenders alive, unhurt, and out of prison, and formal tracking and metrics commensurate with that goal (rather than, for example, job placement and retention alone).  This will include an overall recognition that movement in that direction is progress, and positive (rather than, for example, that not getting or keeping a job is “failure”).
  • Providing affirmative outreach. The structure will include deliberate outreach to offenders to foster new relationships and community; mentorship from ex-offenders to help transition out of the street life through street outreach work and peer “recovery groups” and to share experiences and build bridges to legitimate participation in the community.
  • Offering protection from risk. The Group Violence Intervention is designed to, and does, greatly reduce violence. But this requires that tactics be in place to circumvent violent situations as they arise and protect those who are at risk.  This means shielding potential victims and, where possible, dissuading prospective perpetrators. ​
  • Addressing trauma. As group members attempt to leave behind destructive lifestyles, they are often held back by the trauma of their past experiences. NNSC’s outreach and support structure will recognize, honor and address trauma by developing treatment resources, post-homicide support, and peer “recovery group” settings for sharing and debriefing.
  • Providing the "big small stuff." The structure will include the ability to address emergency needs and provide low-level but critical resources not commonly taken seriously and budgeted for – what we have started to call “the big small stuff.” Often, these overlooked necessities hold group members back from successfully transitioning into a productive and non-violent lifestyle.  Examples of “ the big small stuff” include clearing outstanding warrants, licensing and ID assistance, help acquiring interview attire and work uniforms, assistance with medical costs including copay and prescriptions, transportation, emergency housing and food assistance, funeral costs, and help with navigating bureaucracy.
  • Traditional services. NNSC’s support and outreach emphasizes a social services structure that is carefully tailored to the situation and needs of the  core street population. These services include housing assistance, utility assistance, food pantries, and referrals to outside providers.

This new direction was built to assist those social service partners who do this work most intensively and to support the core population that they aim to serve. Dropping a still-active gang member into a job training program is a prescription for failure, but wrapping him up in the web of offerings and relationships envisioned in this structure holds great promise.

With support from the Jacob & Valeria Langeloth Foundation, the National Network is now working with cities to implement this new structure within the greater strategic framework.Click below to learn more about this new framework through the work of our Langeloth partner cities:

Support & Outreach White Paper

This white paper outlines a new "support and outreach" structure carefully tailored to the core street population, it's situation, and its needs. 

Cincinnati Support & Outreach

The Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) has become a model for implementing our innovative support and outreach framework. 

News & Updates

Taking Aim at Gun Violence, With Personal Deterrence

April 2018  |  New York Times  

In this opinion piece for the New York Times, Tina Rosenberg highlights the NNSC's group violence prevention work across jurisdictions. 

In Pittsburgh, homicides hit a 12-year low in 2017; the mayor credited Ceasefire. Detroit’s homicide rate hit a 50-year low in 2017. Its police chief, James Craig, said in an interview that the city had started Ceasefire in two high-crime precincts in 2015 and has gradually expanded it. “I wasn’t much of a believer when I first got to Detroit,” he said. “But what we have in place now is probably one of the better-working Ceasefire models. It has had a profound impact on sustaining violent crime reduction.”

In Newburgh, statistics in a voluminous New York State report show shootings are way down (See pdf, page 1202) — from 55 victims in 2015 to 17 last year. Violent crime, especially firearm crime, has plummeted. In 2012, the year Oakland began its current version of Ceasefire, it was the third-most dangerous American city, with 126 murders. Last year it had 74. In 2017, Oakland had 277 nonfatal shootings — down from 557 in 2012.

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Pittsburgh gun violence drops to 12-year low; mayor credits police anti-gang efforts

March 2018  |  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  

Through Tuesday afternoon, the city had seen 14 non-fatal shootings in 2018, Cmdr. Joseph said, compared to 31 through the same period last year — a 55 percent decrease.

He attributes the decline to the bureau’s Group Violence Intervention [GVI], a strategy that aims to reduce gang-related gun violence by targeting the city’s most violent gang members while also offering social services and support to those who agree to stop shooting.

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Helfrich optimistic about York’s gun-violence initiative

February 2018  |  York Dispatch  

Helfrich said York City residents need to understand that GVI isn't a short-term program. It's how the city will be doing business from now on. "We will be wherever the violence is," Helfrich said. "We will be there with all the services we can provide — and all the enforcement we can provide. Our mission hasn't changed." 


Tags: York Support and Outreach Support and Outreach

Two Lessons of the Urban Crime Decline

January 2018  |  The New York Times  

Over the past few years, the discussion of crime and violence in the United States has focused on police brutality, mass incarceration and the sharp rise in violence in cities like Baltimore, St. Louis and Chicago. This is entirely appropriate: Any spike in violence should garner attention, and redressing the injustices of our criminal justice system is a matter of moral urgency.

But it is also worth reflecting on how much the level of violence has fallen in this country over the past 25 years and how widespread the benefits of that decline have been. From the 1970s through the early part of the 1990s, the murder rate in some cities in the United States rose to levels seen only in the most violent, war-torn nations of the developing world. In the years since, violent crime has decreased in almost every city, in many cases by more than 75 percent.

Tags: Support and Outreach Support and Outreach

Why Do We Ignore Initiatives That Reduce Gun Violence?

October 2017  |  New York Times  

"While movies, television and news outlets often give the impression that entire cities and neighborhoods are filled with thugs, criminals and killers, the reality is that those responsible for a majority of shootings represent a tiny percentage of the residents of any given city. In response to this fact, effective gun violence reduction strategies adopt a highly targeted, data-based approach in which the small number of individuals most at risk for shooting (and being shot) are provided with individualized programs of support and pressure to lay down their guns. To this end, law enforcement officials, clergy members, community leaders, social service providers and mentors who have themselves escaped violent lifestyles work in partnership with one another to help these individuals turn their lives around."

Tags: ChicagoOakland Support and Outreach Support and Outreach

Intervention, other initiatives help turn around young lives in Newburgh

September 2017  |  Times Herald-Record  

Before Joe Alvarez landed a job welding for renowned sculptor Frank Stella, and before the Newburgh native founded the grassroots organization behind many of the city’s positive initiatives, he was “Florida Rock.”

Alvarez is one example of how teenagers and young men mired in drug dealing and violent crime can turn around their lives. That philosophy drives one of the core missions of Group Violence Intervention, an approach to violent crime based on a proven national model.

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Lenore Anderson: On justice reforms, L.A. County should look forward, not back

August 2017  |  Los Angeles Daily News  

"Public safety challenges in Los Angeles are real and must be addressed. However, the question is not what’s wrong with reforms attempting to correct problems, but what the county can do to effectively effectuate recent reforms — and go even farther.

Looking beyond tradition, officials will find that community leaders and crime experts alike have known for many years what works. Powerful and effective programs like the Watts Gang Task Force, where law enforcement and community street intervention teams work together to address violence at the neighborhood level; or the Community Collaborative Court in Compton that combines case management with treatment and court supervision; or The Long Beach Trauma Recovery Center that’s providing wrap around support for crime victims and their families, reducing crime and empowering communities in the process."

Tags: Los Angeles Support and Outreach Support and Outreach

Changing the Minds of Hurt People Who Have Hurt People

August 2017  |  WNYC  

Risco Mention-Lewis, Deputy Police Commissioner in the Suffolk County Police Department, opens up about her work with formerly incarcerated individuals in the town of Wyandanch, in Suffolk County, on Long Island, in order to "reset the moral standard," as she puts it. She's joined by Micah Danney, freelance journalist, who wrote about her story for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. The movement is called COTA, the Council of Thought and Action, and was started by Mention-Lewis. She leads weekly meetings, comprised mostly of men who have been incarcerated, where they just talk about their lives, aiming to change minds, and ultimately lower recidivism rates.

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York needs follow-through after impressive GVI launch

July 2017  |  York Dispatch  

York City is off to a good start with its new Group Violence Intervention initiative. So says the national advisor for the organization that created the program on which it’s based, who notes the local stakeholders have “gone beyond lip service.”

"There are a couple pieces (to the initiative) that cities can get right — right out of the gate — that are really important," said Louisa Aviles, associate director of the National Network for Safe Communities' group-violence portfolio. "Some cities nail them, and other cities take longer to get them in place."

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The Cost Of Jobs: Officials say jobs are key to reducing violence, but [...]

July 2017  |  WBEZ  

To tamp down Chicago’s gun violence, officials are trying things such as more youth mentoring and more cops. They are also talking about another approach: getting shooters employed.

“The best anti-crime program is a job,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said last fall in a heavily hyped speech about the city’s violence. “It’s that simple.”

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“[GVI] has changed engagement from 3% to almost 85%. It was a huge turnaround; we are building a relationship with a population that we have struggled to build a relationship with.”

-Deanna Hoskins, Director, Office of Re-Entry, Hamilton County, OH