Launched in 2018, the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement’s (ONSE) Violence Intervention Initiative is a collaborative community engagement strategy designed to support District residents in reducing gun-related violence in our communities. The initiative achieves this work by:
- Developing tactics to address potential conflicts
- Stabilizing communities following a violent conflict
- Offering support to individuals at high risk of being directly involved in violence, whether as a victim or perpetrator
This work is supported through a three-pronged approach incorporating a public health perspective and the provision of services to address residents’ physical and mental health needs. It focuses on all persons affected by violent acts, including victims, perpetrators, and their support systems/network.
A Community-Focused Approach
ONSE’s violence intervention efforts are specifically designed to address gun violence stemming from group, crew, and neighborhood conflicts because of the cycle of retaliatory violence. ONSE’s intervention efforts are not designed to address other categories of violence, such as intimate partner violence, family violence, or interpersonal conflicts, although those categories may intersect with retaliatory gun violence. However, just as violence begets violence, it is our belief that peace and hope can similarly spread and that effective reduction strategies have the power to create a positive cascading public safety impact in the communities we serve.
Partnering With Violence Interrupters
Violence Interrupters are rooted outreach workers with unique skills, abilities, and a deep understanding of historical neighborhood conflicts. Most violence interrupters live or have lived in the community they serve and have been personally impacted by community violence.
Violence interrupters are responsible for:
- Building positive relationships with priority community members and developing partnerships with community organizations to implement violence intervention strategies.
- Serving as mentors to high-risk individuals.
- Identifying community and interpersonal conflicts with the potential to escalate to violence.
- Supporting the facilitation of ceasefires and mediations.
- Responding to critical incidents to conduct information gathering, rumor control, and de-escalation.
Full-time violence interrupters dedicate 30 hours per week to engaging high-risk individuals and 10 hours per week to engaging community partners, ceasefire and mediation efforts, attending community events, and training.
Through their work, violence interrupters touch the lives of individuals, families, and communities mostly affected by violence, working behind the scenes to extricate people from cycles of violence. Under ONSE’s model, violence interrupters employ evidence-based informal counseling techniques and utilize trauma-informed care and restorative justice principles in their work. ONSE violence interrupters are supported by a team of case managers and community navigators. Learn more about the critical work of Violence Interrupters.
The Communities We Serve
ONSE’s Violence Interrupters use a data-driven approach to focus their efforts in communities experiencing sustained levels of gun violence. ONSE contracts with three community-based organizations — Collaborative Solutions for Communities, Training Grounds, and Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative (and their subcontractor J&J Solutions) — to work in 22 communities across Wards 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Each contractor develops a neighborhood plan that tailors intervention services to specifically build upon the strengths and meet the needs of each priority community. ONSE monitors each of its partner organizations to ensure quality services are being provided to priority communities through regular staff meetings, monthly reviews of neighborhood plans, and regular neighborhood visits.