Cohesion across key stakeholders and strategies is particularly important to ensuring city gun violence prevention, and Mayor’s Offices of Gun Violence Prevention can play a key role in this. Commissioned by a Mayor, these offices coordinate, develop, and uplift gun violence prevention efforts occurring across the city. Important first steps include: (1) inventorying all gun violence prevention efforts happening across the city to assess strengths and gaps; (2) bringing together diverse stakeholders to identify common goals and strategies; and (3) ensuring that all active approaches are data and community-driven.
Once common goals and approaches are identified, Mayor’s Offices of Gun Violence Prevention are responsible for resource allocation, ensuring that communities most at-risk and strategies most evidence-based are prioritized. These offices can also offer guidance and technology to support valid data collection, relative to both gun violence generally and program/policy impacts specifically. The Office will routinely aggregate and analyze this data, to assess their own impacts and current city needs. In response to these needs, Mayor’s Offices of Gun Violence Prevention can lead or commission various responses–including gun violence prevention campaigns, grants, toolkits, etc.–on both a temporary and long-term basis.1NYC Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence, “About OPGV,” accessed October 11, 2019, https://www1.nyc.gov/site/peacenyc/about/theory-of-change.page.
Mayor’s Offices of Gun Violence Prevention play several crucial roles in ensuring that local gun violence prevention efforts are both effective and sustainable. These offices play a central role in both bringing together and holding accountable key stakeholders, such as law enforcement, public health, education, data analysts, social services, researchers, and community leaders. They also oversee resource allocation, policy and program implementation, and evaluation/sustained learning.
Necessary resources include a minimum of annual city funding–some researchers suggest the benchmark of $30,000 per homicide–; staff with the capacity and capability to direct, manage, coordinate, and evaluate city-wide gun violence prevention efforts; and office space.2Thomas Abt, Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence–and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2019).
Strategy in Practice
Once a mayor decides to commission an Office of Gun Violence Prevention, he or she must determine where to house it, who to hire, and how much money to commit annually to this effort. Next steps include surveying the community and field to better understand what policies, initiatives–both formal and informal–, leaders, and data exist. Representatives from each of these realms should be identified and invited to join mission, needs-assessment, and strategy conversations as well longer term advisory boards and task forces. These conversations are key in identifying short and long term goals, developing action plans, and identifying subject matter experts–both within and outside of the office–responsible for leading each component. In addition to leading some of these efforts internally–such as toolkit or data collection technology creation–, the Mayor’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention also plays an ongoing role in monitoring implementation, compliance, collaboration, and impacts of the city’s various gun violence prevention efforts.
Mayor buy-in and available funding are two primary barriers to implementing Mayor’s Offices of Gun Violence Prevention. Some researchers argue, however, that cities with particularly high homicide rates, investing $30,000 per homicide into smartly run Mayor’s Offices of Gun Violence Prevention and their grantees can reduce homicides by nearly 10 percent per year.3Thomas Abt, Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence–and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2019).
Once the office is established, another common barrier is engaging stakeholders with diverse perspectives and experiences in collaborative conversations. Some strategies for navigating this challenge include emphasizing common goals, and identifying each stakeholder’s unique strengths and contributions.
Agencies, Organizations, & Other Necessary Partners
Commitment from both the Mayor and Police Chief/Superintendent are vital for the success of a Mayor’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Partnerships with representatives from law enforcement, public health, education, social services, research, city IT/data analysis, and community organizations are also key.
What Else You Need to Know
The existence of a Mayor’s Office of Gun Violence Prevent signals to community members that city officials view the issue as important and worthy of long-term, coordinated efforts rather than temporary, one-off responses.
Newsroom & Resources
How to dramatically reduce gun violence in American cities
A Vox article reviewing Harvard researcher Thomas Abt’s book Bleeding Out which details the coordinated city strategies can lead to sustained violence reductions.
Cities United is a national movement focused on eliminating the violence in American cities related to African American men and boys. Cities United works with 92 mayors (and counting) participating in Cities United to reduce homicides in their cities by 50% by the year 2025.
National Offices of Violence Prevention Network
The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform coordinates the National Offices of Violence Prevention Network. The Network consists of local government agencies working to reduce gun violence.