Engaging with local community leaders and residents early and often is key to implementing public health and racial justice approaches to preventing gun violence successfully, a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds.
The report, Improving Community Safety Through Public Health Strategies: Lessons From Atlanta and Milwaukee (24 pages, PDF), highlights lessons learned and recommendations from Casey-funded gun violence prevention work in which residents—with the support of nonprofits and public- or private-sector partners—shape and lead Cure Violence strategies to increase safety and heal trauma by examining root causes and addressing these issues from a public health and racial justice perspective. The study found that while ensuring local buy-in and community ownership of the solutions is essential, building trust and relationships with community members takes time and patience.
The report also found that providing for adaptability and evaluation of what does and does not work will allow for greater effectiveness and sustainability of strategies; shifting to community-driven and prevention-focused approaches is not always easy, given deeply ingrained and heavily resourced traditional law-enforcement and punitive approaches; and offering residents opportunities to learn from peers in other locations who have successfully implemented prevention solutions is key.
"Any effort to improve youth and family well-being cannot fully succeed if people are unable to go about their daily activities free of violence and harm," the report's authors write. "When individuals do feel safe in their neighborhoods, they are more likely to trust public systems and access needed services, engage and advocate on behalf of their communities, and pursue life and career goals. Community safety increases overall economic activity and school attendance and reduces involvement in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems."