Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $2,000,000)
The ATX Peace Project is desperately needed to address violence in the Austin community. Austin neighborhoods have seen crime rates that more than triple the national average, and violent crimes are almost 250 percent higher than the nationwide statistic. More than half of the gun-related incidents in Austin occur in these socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods. They are geographically isolated areas where residents have limited English proficiency. The project purpose is to shift social norms in these disenfranchised communities, detect and interrupt violence, and identify and change high-risk individual behaviors through evidence-based strategies. The community-based organization Jail to Jobs was appointed by the Office of Violence Prevention to build and implement ATX Peace as Austin’s first Community Violence Intervention (CVI) program.
ATX Peace intervention strategies serve the most vulnerable communities, families, and individuals. The multidisciplinary strategies include community-centered activities, intensive case management, and violence interruption. Community events are tailored to target high-violence neighborhoods and meet the residents’ acute needs through clothing and food drives, resource education, and family fun activities. Case managers collaborate with other stakeholders to provide victim services to address needs including employment, education, counseling, housing, food access, and more. The program deploys CVI-trained violence interrupters who are trusted community members with lived experience, reside in the community, and have a history of gang involvement or incarceration. They are privy to conflicts before they occur and offer mediation and de-escalation strategies to defuse violent situations. These strategies provide access to high-risk individuals who comprise less than 1 percent of the population and are at the greatest risk of committing or becoming a victim of a violent act. They are predominantly people of color and range in age from 18 to 40, with most being in their mid-20s.
Removing barriers for the marginally underserved is a foundation of the project initiatives. Additionally, the program is guided by an extensive multidisciplinary team built of research professionals, CVI professionals, government agencies, victim advocates, neighborhood associations, and other key stakeholders. ATX Peace will grow and strengthen with the strategy provided by the community advisory team. It will educate the community about CVI strategies with an anti-violence campaign. It is expected that additional outcomes related to the overall health and safety of the community will also be realized as a result of ATX Peace.