The Birmingham Violence Reduction Initiative (BVRI) is an approach that balances strong consequences for street groups involved in murder with a firm commitment to help individuals who want to turn their lives around. This strategy is based on the belief that violent crime can be prevented when the cost of committing the crime is perceived by the offender to outweigh the benefits.
The BVRI model was selected because recent research has shown this to be one of the most effective strategies in reducing violent crime.* This model has repeatedly demonstrated that violence can be dramatically reduced when community members—ministers, street outreach workers, members of neighborhood associations, ex-offenders, and others with positive influence over street groups—join together with law enforcement and social service providers in a partnership to directly engage with these groups and clearly communicate: (1) a credible moral message against violence from key community leaders; (2) a credible message about the consequences of further violence from law enforcement; and (3) a genuine offer of help from social service providers for those who want it.
BVRI has a laser-like focus on areas of high crime and the groups that commit violent acts. Researchers collected and studied data about violent activity in the area and found that less than 0.5% of Birmingham’s population was responsible for at least 46% of the homicides and the majority of these individuals were members of groups or gangs. The aim of the BVRI strategy is to reduce peer dynamics in the group that promote violence by creating collective accountability, to foster internal social pressure that deters violence, to establish clear community standards against violence, to offer group members an “honorable exit” from committing acts of violence, and to provide a supported path for those who want to change.
How Does It Work?
A partnership among multiple law enforcement agencies (local, state and federal), social service providers and the community has been established to deliver a clear message to violent street groups: the violence must stop. A key moment in BVRI is the “call-in,” a face-to-face meeting between group members and the strategy partners that is repeated as necessary. The partnership delivers the following central messages at the meeting: that the violence is wrong and has to stop; that the community needs group members alive, out of prison, and with their loved ones; that help is available to all who would accept it; and that any future violence will be met with clear, predictable, and certain consequences.
Those group members seeking a more productive lifestyle are provided streamlined social services, training, education, and employment opportunities. The community and law enforcement are working as partners and as a result, strengthening their relationship.
Click here to find out more about BVRI’s Support and Outreach Coordinator, Gerrel Jones
National Network for Safe Communities
Birmingham started its work with the National Network for Safe Communities in the fall of 2014. Under the leadership of Project Manager Jarralynne Agee BVRI held its first call-in in June, 2015. A strong core of leaders including the Mayor, Chief of Police, District Attorney and U.S. Attorney has contributed to Birmingham’s rollout of the Group Violence Intervention. The city continues to hold call-ins every three months, as well as custom notifications that will help deliver the anti-violence message.
Birmingham is also one of pilot sites for the work of the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. The NI focuses on issues of procedural justice, implicit bias, and reconciliation with the goal of improving relationships and building trust between law enforcement and those it serves.
Click here to learn more about the National Network for Safe Communities.
Highlights of a BVRI Call In
*”What Works in Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation; Lessons from Systematic Reviews” David Weisburd, Charlotte Gill, David Farrington (Editors)