Captain David Boysen says the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety knew that some of its strategies to reduce gun violence weren’t working, so they were willing to consider something new.
Boysen who is with the department’s Community Outreach and Problem Solving Division, says the Group Violence Initiative is based on successful programs in other cities. He says it’s designed to address gun violence related to “street groups.” Boysen says the word “gang” isn’t used to avoid getting “stuck with a title.” But he says a the numbers showed a small amount of the population were involved in about half of the gun-related crimes in Kalamazoo.
Boysen says the Group Violence Initiative is more than a public safety strategy. He says it’s a community-led effort. It includes offers of social services, such as help with employment and education. Boysen says Goodwill Industries and several other agencies have been involved.
But Boysen says public safety officers also seek out members of street groups and warn them of the consequences of being involved in gun violence. He says people recently released on parole are also contacted to offer help with employment or other services, but also warn them that being involved in another violent crime will likely lead to a longer prison sentence.
So far the Group Violence Initiative is showing positive results. Boysen says since 2014 when they first adopted the new strategy, there has been a drop non-fatal shootings, and the involvement of street groups. Boysen says the Group Violence Initiative is “the way we do business” now. Boysen says
"This is just a better way to do law enforcement, it’s better for the community, it’s better for the officers and it’s better for the at risk community that we’re trying to help.”