Philly revives anti-violence strategy to address rising homicide rate

Pat Loeb
July 31, 2020 - 6:13 pm
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    PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio)  Philadelphia officials are reviving an anti-violence strategy, known as focused deterrence, with a “soft launch” of the program planned for this weekend. 

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    Focused deterrence, also called Group Violence Intervention, is a carrot and stick approach that targets the small number of people responsible for most violent crimes. The carrot is the offer of social services and other supports. The stick is swift, certain and severe punishment for those who persist in crime.

    Deputy Managing Director Vanessa Garrett Harley said it’s been successful in many cities.

    “I’m really optimistic and I’m prayerful and I’m hopeful that it will have the desired impact and reduce the number of shootings and homicides here,” she said. 

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    Coordinator Morris Hobson said police and prosecutors are involved, but also case managers and community members who’ve lost relatives to gun violence.

    “We have the support of all of these different agencies and entities so we’re very optimistic and excited about the program,” Hobson said.

    Philadelphia had a successful pilot program that ended in 2018. Research by Temple University found the program reduced shootings by 35%. 

    City officials were just preparing to bring it back when the pandemic hit, which postponed it because it requires face-to-face meeting with the subjects. 

    Garrett Harley said the teams believe they can do it safely now, and they’re starting with a small number of people in West Philadelphia.

    “We just want to talk. It’s not a confrontational, in-your-face (thing). We do try to do a clear message and everybody in the group is trying to deliver the message that the shootings must stop,” she explained. 

    Garrett Harley said the program will be citywide eventually.