A Richmond-based nonprofit has received funding from the state Department of Criminal Justice Services and the U.S. Attorney's office to start executing Operation Ceasefire, which aims to reduce gun violence in the city.
Tuesday night, Southside Richmond's Second Baptist Church hosted the annual Community Problems Assembly when Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities honored the funding.
The gun violence reduction program Group Violence Intervention, also known as Operation Ceasefire, was created at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and has been pushed by the faith-based justice advocacy group, which includes members from congregations all over the city, on the city's decision-makers for the past two years.
According to Second Baptist Pastor Ralph Hodge on Tuesday, "As a result of our tenacity, one of our allies, REAL LIFE, secured financing... to put Group Violence Intervention in place, and it's planned to begin this year."
Operation Ceasefire, a predecessor to GVI, was initially put into practice in Boston. It has now been implemented in cities across the nation after being successful in lowering gun violence rates there.
A nonprofit organization called REAL LIFE offers assistance to persons in the state who have experienced homelessness, incarceration, or substance addiction disorders.
According to Sarah Scarbrough, the founder of REAL LIFE, "GVI is a very partner-heavy program." They have the funds, and they are leading the charge, but everyone needs to be involved for this to succeed.
According to Scarbrough, REAL LIFE is attempting to assemble a group of organizations that can offer a variety of services, such as counseling and rehabilitation. She added that the group is attempting to secure the final third of the cash needed to fully administer the program for two years after receiving two-thirds of it.
At the gathering on Tuesday, Congressman Donald McEachin (D-VA) spoke and endorsed the initiative. Colette McEachin's wife, McEachin, who is McEachin, expressed her anger at the violence taking place in the city.
Every morning, she has to tell me what happened the night before, said McEachin. "I am aware of all the young people being shot."
McEachin pledged his support for GVI and REAL LIFE.
In praising the initiative, Attorney General Jason Miyares highlighted collaborations with 12 "Ceasefire cities," including Richmond.
Miyares stated in a press release that his office will appoint five or six prosecutors who would also serve as Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys and would concentrate on prosecuting federal felonies. Additionally, the AG's office will hire two or three GVI coordinators to create community resources and collaborate with neighborhood associations and police enforcement.
Richmond officials have thus far rejected RISC's presentations for the program, instead creating their framework for the prevention and intervention of gun violence.
On its plan, the city collaborated with the Richmond Police Department, VCU Health, and several community organizations. Data analysis was done to determine which neighborhoods most urgently required resources and who should provide them.
In a statement from February 2022, Mayor Levar Stoney criticized RISC's actions in the open. Stoney defended the city's strategy while accusing the group of using victims of gun violence as "pawns."
A representative for the mayor told VPM News in a statement that the administration stands by its framework and is appreciative of more contributions.
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