BOSTON – Tuesday, April 4, 2023 – Mayor Michelle Wu today announced that the City of Boston applied for and was selected to be a part of a new cohort program aimed at reducing gun violence hosted by The University of Maryland’s Center for the Study and Practice of Violence Reduction, known as the Violence Reduction Center (VRC), for cities across the United States.
The cohort brings together renowned experts and practitioners from across the country to participate in a cross-agency, technical-assistance-based, multi-day workshop centered around reducing homicides due to gun violence in a particular city. Mayor Wu made this announcement today alongside Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox, Senior Advisor for Community Safety Isaac Yablo, and community partners at the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury. The program started today and will continue through Friday, April 7, 2023. Participating stakeholders include representatives from the Mayor’s Office, Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), Boston Police Department (BPD), Boston Public Schools (BPS), the Human Services Cabinet, Office of Emergency Management, Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, community partners, and faith leaders.
The Violence Reduction Center cohort’s sessions are co-created by the Mayor’s Office and the Violence Reduction Center. The cohort will help inform the City of Boston’s community safety work moving forward. The cohort signifies Mayor Wu and the City’s commitment to addressing gun violence holistically and to working with residents and families across Boston’s neighborhoods to ensure community safety by bringing together various stakeholders in Boston and the region to comprehensively address violence.
“Boston is one of the safest large cities in the country, and a national model, but even with historic lows of public safety incidents, we are committed to eradicating violence in every neighborhood,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “We look forward to our public agencies and community partners building and deepening our violence prevention and intervention work together.”
Since the fall of 2022, the Mayor’s Office and the Boston Public Health Commission have led collaborative, impactful conversations with internal and external stakeholders on how to address, reduce, and prevent community violence. The City has determined there is a need for programming that focuses on a range of ages and building out a cohesive framework for addressing community violence for all our residents through a public health approach.
The Violence Reduction Center will support and build on the City’s anti-violence efforts by coordinating various departments and agencies; advising the development of programming, services, and infrastructure related to violence prevention and intervention; and bolster data collection and evaluation infrastructure across the City of Boston.
“Completing this cohort will serve as an additional step towards achieving Mayor Wu’s vision of building a multifaceted community violence prevention, intervention, and recovery ecosystem that serves our most historically marginalized communities,” said Isaac Yablo, Senior Advisor for Community Safety. “The cohort will help to uplift the experiences of direct providers while concurrently introducing new perspectives that will improve how we serve our constituents.”
The cohort’s sessions will bring together various stakeholders and foster collaboration on a multi-tiered gun violence reduction strategy for the City of Boston. The workshop will also ensure participants learn about various tools available to the City and better position them to implement evidence-informed, community-informed best practices from across the country into their ongoing work.
“We are excited at the opportunity to review and assess current strategies to reduce violence in our City. Boston has a long history of leading the way and creating many of the best practices the country has followed over the past thirty years. We’ve utilized strategic partnerships to divert youth and other vulnerable populations away from violence and crime. These programs came about because we shared real data with our partners and put our heads together to find innovative solutions. This is not just a police issue. Real community policing depends on partnerships,” said Commissioner Michael Cox, Boston Police Department. “The problems we face today deserve interventions with services and support from the City, our non-profit partners and the community behind them. Each of us has a key role to play if we are going to build trust and truly create lasting change. Thank you to Mayor Wu for her leadership in these efforts.”
“Boston Public Health Commission is committed to working within the community to address and prevent multiple forms of violence, including homicides due to gun violence,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of Boston Public Health Commission. “Boston becoming a Violence Reduction Center cohort is an important opportunity for the City as we work to eliminate gun violence. The program will allow us to bring greater expertise to the table and ensure the use of evidence-informed and community-informed practices.”
“Keeping our young people safe is our highest priority,” said Superintendent Mary Skipper. “Every child has the right to feel safe in their communities and in their schools. What happens to our youth traveling to and from school, in the after-school hours and evenings, and on the weekends and during the summer can be as impactful as what happens during the school day. We cannot express enough our appreciation for Mayor Wu and the Violence Reduction Center for their steadfast commitment to reducing gun violence and keeping our young people out of harm’s way.”
Sessions will provide a detailed examination of gun violence in Boston, street outreach interventions, evidence-informed policing strategies, and guidance on implementing Citywide anti-violence strategies. By the end of the workshop, the VRC will help the City of Boston lay a foundation to coordinate various stakeholders around pursuing and implementing proven strategies that our community and City have identified will stop violence in Boston.
Building off the City’s participation in the Violence Reduction Center’s cohort, the City today also announced a community-led Healing Tour will launch in the coming weeks. The tour will engage and empower communities most impacted by violence and convene residents and municipal leaders who need the most intervention to address long-standing issues centered on the root causes of violence. The healing tour is one step the City is taking to provide immediate support for residents impacted and guide and inform how the City approaches violence as we approach the summer months of 2023.
Sessions on the tour will also include a separate physical space for mental health clinicians, allowing individuals to begin and/or continue their healing coupled with quality-of-life resources. More information, including session dates and locations, will be available on boston.gov later this week.
The Center for the Study and Practice of Violence Reduction, known as the Violence Reduction Center (VRC), provides solutions by combining rigorous research with practical know-how. With an emphasis on community violence perpetrated with firearms, the VRC gathers the most rigorous research, synthesizes it, and then makes it available to all, free of charge and in accessible, easy-to-use formats. The VRC is part of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland. The department was established in 1969 and has been consistently ranked as the #1 criminology doctoral program in the United States (U.S. News and World Report, 2005, 2010, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022).