Orlando City Council approves ‘intervention’ to stop gun violence

Parks & Rec, police will use “change agents” to mentor troubled youth

ORLANDO, Fla. – The 15-year-old Jones High School student shot to death this weekend is only the latest child in Central Florida to be caught up in gun violence.

Last week, a 16-year-old Seminole High School student was shot at school.

On Christmas eve, a 6-year-old was hit in a drive-by shooting in the Taft area of Orange County.

And a month before that, a 7-year-old was grazed at an Orlando apartment complex.

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Orlando City Commissioner Bakari Burns called the proliferating gun violence a “public health issue.” He echoed what police often say -- that 1% of the population is committing a large percentage of the violence.

On Monday afternoon, Burns and the rest of the Orlando City Commission voted to approve an “evidence-based model of Community Violence Intervention (CVI).”

“Central Florida has experienced an increase in homicides that mirrors a national trend,” explained the agenda to the city’s Monday afternoon meeting. “In response to the national trend, the White House and a growing movement of violence prevention experts have advocated to expand various models of Community Violence Intervention and/or Group Violence Intervention initiatives which, when implemented with fidelity, have reduced gun violence by 40-70%.”

Burns, who proposed a pilot program adding student safety coaches at Carver Middle School after a shooting there, said the 1% of offenders will be identified through the city’s Families, Parks and Recreation Department led by director Lisa Early, and the Orlando Police Department.

“While I don’t think this program [alone] will end it [gun violence], it will put us in the right direction of identifying those individuals, getting them help, but also just reducing homicides in Orlando as well as gun violence,” Burns said. “And those are the two main focuses of that program.”

Early said the CVI has gotten results around the country.

“It’s very targeted, data-driven, and research proves is very effective,” Early said. “A good example, the model we’re looking at started in Richmond, California and they’ve had a 70% reduction in killings in the community.”

Early said Families, Parks & Recreation, and OPD will also identify “change agents” to mentor and turn around the 1%.

“[Change agents are] individuals who have similar backgrounds, come from similar communities,” Early said. “They may be people who got in trouble as youth themselves, gotten off the rails, who may have been arrested, involved in gangs and such.”

The CVI will be paid for through funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“With technical assistance from national experts, OPD and FPR will develop a list of individuals who, applying research-based indicators, are at highest risk for violence,” according to the city’s agenda. “These individuals (”participants”) will be referred to “Neighborhood Change Agents” (NCAs) who will intervene to disrupt situations when violence appears imminent, and maintain daily contact with participants, serving as mentors, case managers and life coaches. Their goal will be to pivot participants away from circumstances leading toward violence, and instead to non-violent, economically, and socially productive lives.

“The overall goals of the program are to: a) reduce shootings and homicides in Orlando; and b) prevent incidents of gun violence among program participants. An independent evaluation will be carried out to measure the extent to which these goals are achieved.”

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.