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  • Douglas Oeser

Developing a Strategy to Reduce Violence and Save Lives

In order to reduce violent crime and save lives, it is imperative municipalities establish programs which analyze the social problems that give rise to crime, and develop collaborative intervention initiatives that seek to prevent harm by providing direct support and services for those most afflicted with violence. Such initiatives have been carried out in several cities across the U.S., such as Boston, MA and Oakland, CA, and have resulted in significant reductions of gun violence. These programs use a data-driven approach to identify individuals at a high risk of being involved in violence, respectfully communicate the risk of their behavior and that they are a valuable member of our community, and make available the services, support, and opportunities necessary to ensure their safety and reduce harm.


In Oakland, for example, group meetings are held between at-risk individuals and community leaders, service providers, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers. In these meetings, clients are told that they are respected, that we care for them, and we want them to remain alive, free from incarceration, and successful. Services and support offered include life coaches, employment services, incentivized stipends, housing support services, cognitive behavioral therapy, and drug treatment programs. Not only did Oakland’s program result in a five-year consecutive reduction in gun violence, but it has also resulted in a significant decline in use of force incidents.


The National Institute of Justice recently released a review of Oakland's program and found the program was shown to reduce “total shootings, gang-involved shootings, suspected gang-involved shootings, and gang shooting victimizations in treatment block groups relative to matched comparison block groups.” According to the referenced research, these differences were all statistically significant. But before any action is taken in support of communities or at-risk individuals, there must be analysis of who is committing the violence, where they are committing it, and why. A key component of Oakland’s success was the creation of a full-time position dedicated to managing the strategy along with utilizing experienced, hands-on consultant partners over several years. It also involves the continuous engagement of city officials and service providers throughout the year to review and evaluate the efficacy of the program; making adjustments where necessary.


Given the recent rise in violent crime and the degree with which this harm disproportionately affects Asheville’s minority community, the time for action is now. If crime prevention is designated as the sole responsibility of law enforcement, it will only result in additional patrols of over-policed communities and more arrests. If Asheville were to implement a program to address violence through intervention, then our community could begin to address the systemic causes of violence, prevent crimes before they ever occur, and, ultimately, save lives.


All views and opinions expressed on this website are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. All data provided is publicly sourced and referenced. For more information about my intent, please read What's the Point?


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