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Civic Institute leads new effort to curb gun violence

Monday, December 14, 2015

Amy Eisert

Mercyhurst Civic Institute Director Amy Eisert is leading a group of 20 people from Erie to Kansas City today to learn more about the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA), a collaborative aimed at reducing gun violence, particularly homicides.

Eisert said KC NoVA has successfully implemented an evidence-based practice known as “focused deterrence,”  which has decreased homicides from an average of 150 annually to 98 in 2015. The program is also meeting with success in several other cities, including Boston and Cincinnati.

According to the KC NoVA website, a focused deterrence model incorporates three basic elements:

  *   A moral voice from the community indicating that violence will no longer be tolerated;

  *   A legitimate and intensive offer of social services to those who want to choose a different path from violent crime; and

  *   For those who continue to commit violence, a swift and fierce response from law enforcement on those individuals and their associates.

Joining Eisert in Kansas City is George Fickenworth, assistant director of the Mercyhurst Civic Institute; District Attorney Jack Daneri, Erie Police Chief Randy Bowers; Erie Sheriff John Loomis and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Piccinini; all are part of the Unified Erie initiative. Other local attendees include representatives of UPMC Hamot, the FBI, adult probation and Erie media.

Eisert first learned of the program when she attended a seminar at Michigan State University. There she met Andrew Fox, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, who gave a presentation on social network analysis and how Kansas City was using it as a tool to address violence within its community. Upon her return, she discussed the project with Unified Erie partners as a way of dealing with Erie’s gun violence.

In turn, she said, the Erie Police Department, through a Project Safe Neighborhoods grant, was able to bring Major Joseph McHale of the Kansas City Police Department and  Andrew Fox to Erie to provide an overview of the strategy to law enforcement. This led to further discussions among cross sectors on how it could be implemented locally.

“We are going to Kansas City to witness firsthand how their initiative works and for local partners to meet with their Kansas City counterparts to discuss how they engage in the strategy as police, clergy, social service providers, community members, researcher analysts and media,” Eisert said.

Unified Erie partners anticipate implementing the strategy in Erie, but expanding it to include all gun violence, not strictly homicides.