GVI staff and partners to Council: This collaborative, community effort is working
Louisville’s Group Violence Intervention (GVI) program – a collaborative effort among Metro Government, the criminal justice system, and the community – is working, and is contributing to reductions in gun violence in the city.
That was the key message delivered during a special Metro Council public safety meeting today, with testimony from GVI Project Manager Dondre Jefferson, LMPD Deputy Chief Jackie Villaroel, community partners and representatives of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, which created the initiative and is monitoring its implementation in Louisville.
In response to Council questioning, John Jay’s David Kennedy, who developed the GVI model, said Louisville is upholding the fidelity of the model. “What we’re seeing in Louisville is GVI is operational, it has a solid foundation, and it has solid partners … Louisville is doing a really good job,” Kennedy said.
Both Jefferson and Villaroel agreed that GVI is contributing to an encouraging trend in gun violence in the city – non-fatal shootings are down 32 percent over this time last year, homicides are down 10 percent, and gun seizures are up a little more than one percent.
Jefferson stressed that GVI focuses solely on homicides and shootings involving members of groups or gangs in the city known to be drivers of gun violence, which covers about one third of the homicides in Louisville this year.
The GVI model leverages an intentional collaboration among law enforcement, social service providers and community members who carry the message that everyone needs and deserves to be safe; there is a very small number of people at extremely high risk for violent victimization and violent offending; and the model can keep them safe, alive, and free.
GVI centers on several elements, including “custom notifications,” which are in-person visits or direct calls to those driving violence in the community or victims who may be highly likely to retaliate. The main message is to stop the violence, don’t retaliate and instead, take advantage of wraparound services offered through GVI. The local team has performed 239 custom notifications since GVI’s launch here last year.
The team also has responded to 35 families directly affected by group violence, offering services like help securing Section 8 housing, food, furniture and counseling, and has held three call-in meetings with members of groups involved in gun violence. During Jefferson’s testimony today, he invited and encouraged Metro Council members to attend a call-in meeting, as he has done in the past.
Jefferson said of the 142 custom notifications to potential violence perpetrators this year, only nine were revictimized.
Jefferson said GVI has ironed out one challenge with the state Probation and Parole division that had lessened participation at the first two call-ins. GVI staff and partners are now invited to deliver a custom notification during the perpetrator’s check in with Probation and Parole. “We’ve ironed out some issues that kept some potential attendees from coming, while also implementing personal visits from GVI staff and partners, to encourage group members to come listen,” he said.
As a result, the most recent call-in, held in September, was attended by a half dozen representatives of different active groups. In his remarks, Mayor Fischer stressed the main message: “We, your families and your community, want you alive, safe, out of prison and contributing to the health and growth of our community. We think you can do it and we’re here to help you reach that goal.”
LMPD and GVI staff today stressed the importance of partnerships, including those with Probation and Parole, as well as the U.S. Attorney, Commonwealth’s attorney and County Attorney, as well as LMPD’s Victim Services Unit, the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, Jefferson County Public Schools, and community partners like Kim Moore with Joshua Community Connectors, and Volunteers of America and Goodwill Industries of Kentucky.
“The Mayor has said that public safety requires a ‘whole of government, whole of city approach,’ and we are seeing that play out with GVI. The collaboration we've been able to foster among different groups that have been working on this challenge is critical," Jefferson said.