Philly still weeks away from completing evaluation of new anti-violence program

Zahirah Ahmad, a North Philly resident and member of the Not On My Watch movement, joined activists at a rally and march at City Hall in Philadelphia on March 26, 2021, to demand the city put more resources to preventing gun violence. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Zahirah Ahmad, a North Philly resident and member of the Not On My Watch movement, joined activists at a rally and march at City Hall in Philadelphia on March 26, 2021, to demand the city put more resources to preventing gun violence. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The city is still in the process of independently evaluating the effectiveness of two anti-violence programs designed to prevent shootings in Philadelphia, which is on pace to set a new single-year record for homicides.

Erica Atwood, senior director for the Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice and Public Safety, said it will be another two to three weeks before she has a sense of when the first evaluation will be completed for the Group Violence Intervention program, launched in August.

Atwood said the city recently hired an independent consultant to evaluate the Community Crisis Intervention Program, which was relaunched two years ago.

“Give me a little bit more time to tell you when we’ll have some results of that. We are just beginning that process,” she told City Council during the latest hearing regarding Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed $5.2 billion budget for the next fiscal year.

Kenney’s spending plan includes nearly $19 million in additional funding for anti-violence efforts.

The hearing also came a day after a particularly violent weekend in which 25 people were shot, seven of them killed, in 14 separate shootings. It brings the murder total to at least 183 people, a 34% increase over the same in 2020, the deadliest year in three decades.

The additional funding, much of which would go to the Managing Director’s Office, would be used to increase the budget for CCIP and GVI, bolster the city’s blight remediation efforts, and launch a transitional jobs program in the near future, among other priorities.

If passed, the two anti-violence programs would have a combined budget of $6.6 million during the 2022 fiscal year.

Under GVI, rooted in a crime prevention strategy known as focused deterrence, a group of stakeholders offer people identified by police as potential shooters social services, job training, and mental health services. Participants are threatened with collective enforcement if the violence doesn’t stop.

The Community Crisis Intervention Program sends dozens of “violence interrupters” into neighborhoods considered to be at the highest risk for gun violence to try to deescalate brewing conflicts.

Kenney also wants to spend $2.4 million to get the transitional jobs program, to be patterned off the READI program in Chicago, off the ground. Atwood said Monday the goal is to have a feasibility study completed by the end of the summer with hopes of building and implementing a pilot program by January 2022.

The READI program provides cognitive behavioral therapy, support services, and 12 months of subsidized employment for participants with the goal of reducing gun violence in at-risk neighborhoods.

“We want a minimum of 200 slots, but what I will say is I am committing to that in pencil because READI has not been on the ground yet. They’ve not assessed what we have here,” said Atwood.

After visiting, program staffers will recommend a structure for the pilot based on the city’s “climate and culture” and neighborhood assets, said Atwood.

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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