For Immediate Release: February 28, 2023
Contact: Amaury Ávalos, Communications Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
City of Philadelphia Announces Results of Independent Evaluation of Group Violence Intervention Program
PHILADELPHIA — The City of Philadelphia announced today the results of an independent evaluation of its Group Violence Intervention (GVI) program, an evidence-based approach to gun violence that focuses on group-member involved gun violence in Philadelphia communities.
Conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, the evaluation revealed multiple positive findings for the program, which is a key component of the Roadmap to Safer Communities strategy led by Mayor Jim Kenney’s Administration and the Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice & Public Safety (CJPS).
“I am grateful for the promising results and the insights in this evaluation,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Reducing gun violence is our highest priority and evaluating what is or isn’t working is an essential part of our efforts. Our battle with gun violence is far from over, but we are encouraged by the progress that the evaluation has documented. This tells us that GVI is a program that works, and we will continue to invest in this approach going forward.”
“It’s also important to recognize that there are dedicated City employees and community partners doing the work of making our communities safer every day, and these findings demonstrate what can be done when we move with intention and invest in evidence-based practices.”
The Group Violence Intervention Program is an evidence-based approach to gun violence which is based on the premise that a miniscule percentage of people (about 0.5 of one percent of the city's population) may be linked to 60 percent to 70 percent of shootings and homicides. This means that perpetrators or victims are part of a neighborhood group connected to shootings taking place in a particular area. This specific kind of gun violence can be reduced by placing extra attention on the individuals within the groups committing the violence. This model has been implemented and refined in other cities across the nation. In Philadelphia, the program operates out of the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Violence Prevention (OVP), which is housed within the Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice & Public Safety (CJPS).
The program relies on a multi-faceted approach to gun violence prevention that implements the following strategies:
- Offering social services and support to at-risk group members;
- Focusing messaging on deterrence and law enforcement sanctions in response to violence;
- Community-rooted messaging that de-normalizes violence.
Launched in August 2020, as the city was still adjusting to the onset of COVID-19,Philadelphia’s GVI program developed unique adaptations of this model to reach people at risk of committing gun violence. Some COVID-related adjustments included shifting large-scale group call-in meetings to Mobile Call-In Team (MCIT) visits to at-risk group members in their homes and communities.
The City of Philadelphia contracted with The University of Pennsylvania to evaluate GVI from an external perspective. According to the evaluation, the current implementation of GVI in Philadelphia produced significant reductions in group-member involved gun violence at both the group level and at the census tract-level during the period of January 2020 to May 2022. This demonstrates the program’s ability to create change at the individual level, which inevitably rises to the community level.
“Our gun violence crisis has been years in the making, with many deep-seated challenges and injustices at its core. We know it will take time, resources, and strategy to win this fight,” said Erica Atwood, Deputy Managing Director. “The University of Pennsylvania’s evaluation demonstrates that when we move with intention and patience, we see positive outcomes. The GVI program was designed to identify at-risk groups and provide them with the individual and group services needed to create positive outcomes for themselves, all with the intention of creating community-wide, and eventually city-wide, change.”
During the research period, 113 groups received GVI treatment. Between August 2020 and May 2022, 276 individuals received treatment through one or more direct contacts with GVI. The study defined treatment as contact between a GVI staff member and a GVI recipient. On average, these groups saw a 38.6 percent reduction in shootings per week. Groups who received treatment from GVI twice over the period saw an even more significant decrease of 50.3 percent.
The evaluation also notes that a reduction in gun violence was associated with enforcement actions by Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) officers. During the study period, 26 groups experienced an enforcement action before receiving GVI treatment. Those groups who received an enforcement action before treatment saw a 42.8 percent reduction in gun violence involvement.
“Mr. Deion [Sumpter, Director of GVI] and his GVI team are saving my life,” said a GVI program participant, who wished to remain anonymous. “They are consistent and persistent. They are consistently trying to help me. You cannot be mad at people that genuinely want to help you. [GVI] is made up of people who been through what I been through or people who lost loved ones from gun violence – and I don’t want my mom to lose me. So, overall, I connected with them [GVI] on a personal level, and I appreciated it.”
In response to this positive evaluation, the City is moving forward with expanding the GVI program and its services. Since the conclusion of the Evaluation period, GVI has expanded into 15 police districts throughout the city of Philadelphia. In the next year, the GVI program plans to staff 12 additional case managers, three site supervisors, a peer retention specialist, and a data manager.
The increase in staff will allow greater flexibility to the program’s service delivery, provide additional case management capacity, and increase access to services and resources for those who are not ready to engage in our employment services, but want to explore positive alternatives. GVI plans to conduct more formal Call-Ins, increase the number of Mobile Call-In teams, and engage in social service outreach without the participation of law enforcement partners.
To guarantee that GVI can provide transitional job opportunities to GVI participants, the Office of Violence Prevention continues to partner with the Center for Employment (CEO). In the near future, GVI will also integrate stronger behavioral and mental health supports to high-risk individuals through this partnership. Through this collaboration, CEO will create on-site resource centers for all GVI participants. The program will also hire an on-site clinician to remove barriers in seeking behavioral health treatment for GVI participants. GVI participants will receive incentives to complete therapeutic sessions with a licensed clinician.
The success of the GVI program speaks to the benefits of a long-term approach to gun violence intervention and prevention. The Kenney Administration plans to continue its investment in the program and is optimistic that support for the program will last beyond the administration into the future.