Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS)

By Mayor Brandon Scott, Commissioner Michael Harrison and Atty. Marilyn Mosby

All too often, we are hit with the news of another horrific shooting in Baltimore. Each shooting serves as one more reminder of the city’s lasting history with gun violence and the persistent trauma afflicted on our neighborhoods. This pain shapes the Black experience growing up in Baltimore, and we all have a responsibility to confront it. 

Tackling this violence epidemic is our number one priority. But for a challenge as daunting as gun violence, we must work together. Fortunately, after years of unstable leadership and conflicting strategies, Baltimore finally has a mayor, police commissioner and state’s attorney who are fundamentally aligned in this effort.

This alliance created the Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS), a coordinated effort to reduce group-related shootings and homicides, decrease recidivism, and strengthen trust between communities and law enforcement. We will launch this intervention in the Western District, focusing on neighborhoods that have historically endured the highest rates of gun violence. After establishing a solid footing in the Western District, we’ll implement our approach in other Baltimore neighborhoods that experience violence.

GVRS offers an equitable lens that sees the best in everyone, particularly by providing second chances to many who were systematically deprived of a first one. It employs an evidence-based approach that has worked in cities across the country for nearly thirty years. This strategy offers strong and immediate support to those most at risk of violent victimization and perpetration, and sets clear expectations and legal consequences for continued violence. Moreover, Baltimore has made a particular commitment to provide employment prospects, housing, counseling, mediation, and education opportunities to high-risk individuals who account for the overwhelming share of gun violence victims. 

Importantly, this coordinated effort is not just talk. Baltimore is heavily invested in GVRS, committing funds for intelligence centers to analyze police data on shootings and to community-based organizations working tirelessly to interrupt cycles of violence. 

Look, status quo solutions for policing and public safety simply do not work. And zero-tolerance policing and arresting our way to a safer Baltimore is not a sustainable solution. Overcoming the prevailing legacy of gun violence in Baltimore requires data-driven solutions that leverage voices from the community and the expertise of service providers, outreach workers, government agencies and academics, GVRS embodies this.

Further, it is important to recognize that GVRS is part of a much broader shift in how each of our City agencies approach violent crime. Mayor Scott recently announced the Baltimore City Comprehensive Violence Prevention Plan, and we each have our own respective public safety programs and initiatives underway. But we collectively believe that the coordinated approach outlined in GVRS has the potential to save countless lives and lead to a safer Baltimore. 

And we aren’t alone, the scope of this effort requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. Thankfully, our federal delegation and United States Attorney have stepped up as committed partners, as have Roca, Baltimore Community Mediation Center, Youth Advocate Programs and a host of national and local organizations.

Real progress requires coordination, but patience is also essential. Failed enforcement-only crime reduction strategies of the past and progress in cities like Oakland prove that change will not happen overnight. Baltimore has attempted elements of GVRS twice before and failed due to a lack of stability, commitment and coordination among city leaders; we will not allow that to happen again. 

We can reverse Baltimore’s gun violence crisis, but we must stay the course. We must remain steadfast to honor the young lives of Jhosy Portillo and Ja’Nyi Weeden, and the next generation of Baltimoreans who deserve better.

As Baltimore continues to emerge from COVID-19, we cannot let the public health crisis of gun violence supplant the public health crisis of the pandemic. We must seize the urgency of this moment by applying a holistic approach to gun violence that saves the lives of our family and neighbors.  

We understand the formidable task before us. And we are partners in the building of a better Baltimore, bound by a perfect mission of protecting and preserving life. Conquering Baltimore’s violence epidemic is impossible to accomplish alone. However, through leadership that is aligned and committed, we will achieve the impossible together.

Brandon Scott is the Mayor of Baltimore City. 

Michael Harrison is the Commissioner for the Baltimore Police Department. 

Marilyn Mosby is the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City.

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