York City partners with York College, county agencies to bolster GVI
A group of York City officials, county prosecutors and York College faculty on Monday unveiled a partnership to bolster the city's anti-crime Group Violence Initiative and monitor its effectiveness with a data-based approach.
The group presented the GVI Prosecution and Diversion Project, made possible through a $360,000 federal Justice Assistance Grant, on Monday, Oct. 21, at York College. The partnership includes the York City Police Department, the York County District Attorney's Office, the York County Family Engagement Unit and college faculty.
"This grant award and strategic partnership allow my office to be involved in a proactive approach to combat and address the senseless gun violence that has plagued the community," said District Attorney Dave Sunday. "Partnerships such as these are often a catalyst for community growth."
David J. Freed, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, also was on hand for the Monday announcement, during which he emphasized the importance of grants for such partnerships.
The premise of GVI, offered through the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and its National Network of Safe Communities, is that a very small number of people in any city perpetrate the vast majority of violent crimes.
So to reduce violent crime, law enforcement has to identify and target that small group of people, who are often involved in gangs or the drug trade, or both. Those targeted during call-in presentations then carry the message back to their associates.
However, city police have lacked the resources to utilize the GVI program to the best of its ability since its inception in 2016, officials said Monday. The new partnership is expected to add more resources into the program while relieving police overtime costs associated with violence in the city.
The move includes a dedicated GVI prosecutor, Stephanie Lombardo, who is tasked with prosecuting GVI-related cases, from pre-charging to disposition. She will also be responsible for avoiding unnecessary convictions by referring individuals to the county's Family Engagement Unit.
York College staff will provide oversight for the entire program by analyzing gun violence data. The analysts will provide constant feedback and produce a final report in 2021 detailing the project's success — or lack thereof — while making recommendations going forward.
The partnership marks the latest update to the program since 2016.
For example, the city has added a unit to recover illegal guns and, most recently, a Juvenile Violence Initiative, which York City Mayor Michael Helfrich said was the first of its kind in the country.
"These are new layers that we keep adding on," Helfrich said.
By the numbers, GVI has led to mixed results. After York launched the program in 2016, it saw a 50% drop in shootings — with a rise in homicides — the following year. In 2018, however, there were 61 shootings, nearly as many as 2016's 67.
There have been at least 36 shootings in York City this year, 10 of which were homicides.
City officials have said the initiative should be judged not only on the number of shootings but also in regards to fostering a better relationship between the police and community.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.