Gun violence has been steady or increasing over the last few years in Erie, PA.
The criminal justice system began a program to specifically reduce this problem 3 years ago, called Unified Erie. Sonya Arrington started the group Mothers Against Teen Violence, which has been highly visible in working toward that goal. The Benedictine sisters have also worked tirelessly for peace. The newspaper recently reported a new group of over 30 men forming, also with these goals in mind.
The Atlantic has reported that neighborhood cohesiveness may be a major factor in reducing violence:
Researchers at the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at Yale University found that the more closely knit people reported their neighborhood to be, the less exposure to violence they had. By collecting data from roughly 150 New Haven residents through community-based surveys conducted in 2014, the study authors concluded that strong social ties may help reduce gun violence and produce more resilient neighborhoods.
A 2006 paper based on data from over 10,000 respondents across 20 local areas found that crime decreased as “sense of community” increased. That metric was defined as whether people worked together to improve their neighborhoods, felt safe walking at night, and trusted their neighbors.
Likewise, a 2013 study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice characterized community bonds as a resource of, by, and for the people. “Residents living in neighborhoods with close social ties tend to watch out for each other and their property,” it stated. “Intervening can include things like calling the police, asking questions of strangers, notifying parents if children are misbehaving, forming community groups to address problems, or attending city council meetings to request assistant from government.”
I think these studies should give great hope to the people working on this problem – it’s a simple solution that people can start to do on their own, and the groups can also work on it.