Louisville leaders hold city’s first GVI call-in meeting

January 13, 2022

Leaders from throughout the Louisville community, including representatives of Metro Government, Metro Council, the criminal justice system, businesses, and the non-profit and faith communities, this evening held a Group Violence Intervention (GVI) “call-in” meeting with members of groups in the city known to be driving the increase in violent crime here.

The message was simple: The city has and is offering the tools necessary to live a better life. Accept this offer and stop the violence, or you and your group will feel the full weight of the criminal justice system.

“Tonight, you’re here because this community wants to give you a sense of hope about your future, a future without violence, and we are offering you a hand of hope, right here, right now, to do just that. To change in a life-affirming way,” said Mayor Fischer, among nearly a dozen speakers. “But we do that while we tell you that the violence that has plagued our community must stop. And it will stop. Today marks a new day for the way our city is going to respond to gun violence, and you have the great opportunity to be part of the wave of change in how we will deal with violence.”

Other speakers, including Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) Chief Erika Shields, U.S. Attorney Michael Bennett, and Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine, outlined the specific steps that law enforcement will take against groups that fail to respond to that “hand of hope.”

"Individuals engaged in violence will be held accountable,” said Chief Shields. “We are paying particular attention to the most violent groups in the city. If you endanger our community, you will receive our focus.”

Also during the meeting, group members heard moving comments from voices in the community who have experienced devastating loss due to gun violence, the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, and a former gang member.

“Please do not put another mother through what I have been through,” said a mother who lost her son to gun violence.

“We have pulled together resources from across the community to make you and your associates a priority,” said a representative from OSHN. “If you are trying to find a job, we will work with you to make a resume, practice for job interviews, or get an internship. If you just want to talk to someone, or just need some advice and support about what’s going on in your life, I will meet you with the right resources and we can talk it out.”

Louisville launched GVI in the fall of 2020. The approach, which leverages an intentional collaboration among law enforcement, social service providers and community members, was first implemented in Boston in 1996-97, and resulted in a 63 percent drop in youth homicides, which became known as the “Boston Miracle.” The GVI approach has since been used successfully in cities large and small with positive results: a 42 percent decrease in gun homicide in Stockton, Calif., a 44 percent reduction in gun assaults in Lowell, Mass., and a 41 percent decrease in group-involved homicides in Cincinnati.

Developed by Professor David M. Kennedy of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, the success of GVI hinges on the partnership’s ability to correctly and effectively deliver 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 GVI is designed to keep them safe, alive, and free.

Over the past several months, Louisville’s GVI partnership has laid the groundwork, gathering data pinpointing the groups involved in violence, while also creating the framework to support those at-risk residents in their daily lives, communicate community norms in support of everyone’s safety and success, and when necessary, create swift, certain, and legitimate sanctions for violence.

As in most cities, the groups determined to be driving the overwhelming majority of homicides and shootings in Louisville include members on probation and parole. Those supervisees were strongly encouraged to attend tonight’s meeting, where they heard from three segments of this community:

Community members, who clearly stated that they hate the violence in their neighborhoods and want it to stop.

Providers offering help and support, ranging from jobs and career services to housing support and counseling. Attendees were given specific options to activate a wide range of social services.

Law enforcement, with the message that this is not a negotiation. If one member of a group commits violence after the meeting, every member will face comprehensive enforcement attention for any crime committed.

Group members were urged to carry the group-accountability message back to their groups.

“We, your families and your community, want you alive, safe, out of prison and contributing to the health and growth of our community,” said Mayor Fischer, whose No. 1 priority is public safety. “We think you can do it and we’re here to help you reach that goal.”

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