New Haven, CT

Implementing resilience to mitigate violence.

The Challenge

American cities are far too familiar with gun violence, and New Haven, CT is no different. But several shootings in broad daylight shocked the community and left many demanding solutions.

However, entrenched political silos, a discouraged population and an overall lack of community cohesion all created a bleak outlook for change.

The Approach

A group of dedicated activists, researchers, and grassroots leaders set out to address the multiple factors behind the violence in their community. Their first step was to hold community meetings focused on two essential purposes — allowing all parties to express their concerns and opinions during community venting sessions, and soliciting ideas from residents on security, activities, police relations and other issues via organizing sessions.

Based on a belief that high levels of social cohesion are a component of resilience, the group organized neighborhood-level teams via resilience protocols to:

  • Develop surveys to gauge community attitudes and measure social cohesion
  • Define and map cultural, neighborhood and familial “kinship networks” to establish connections and build trust
  • Create opportunities for positive interactions, including
    • Neighborhood clean-up and beautification events
    • Door-to-door neighborhood surveys to establish a feedback loop
    •  Game Days (one Saturday per month) to spur communication and familiarity

The group is also currently utilizing a grant from the National Institutes of Health to design violence-prevention interventions. By studying the social networks of victims and identifying members of those networks who had not been involved in gun violence, the goal is to discover commonalities that can lead to strategies for prevention.

The Progress

While challenges still remain, the group remains hopeful. Overall feedback gathered from surveys has been overwhelmingly positive, and stage-2 funding for an intervention study is in the works.

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