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Danville, VA Local Government News and Announcements

Posted on: February 11, 2020

City seeks to form gang intervention team

To take the fight against gang violence to the next level, City officials and agency professionals came together on Monday and Tuesday to learn how to form a multi-agency intervention team that will work to get local youth out of the street gang lifestyle and onto a better path.

Representatives from the Florida-based National Gang Center provided the two-day training.

“We try to take kids that are very high risk for serious gang involvement and pull them out of it,” said Shawn Baldwin, a senior research associate at the National Gang Center.

An intervention team is at the core of the Comprehensive Gang Model, which the City adopted in 2017. This team will be composed of professionals from the fields of law enforcement, probation, outreach, education and social services.

Robert David, youth services and gang violence prevention coordinator for the City of Danville, said the formation of a multi-agency intervention team is about breaking silos.

“Everybody does a lot of good work, but they do it in their silos,” said David, who will serve as coordinator for the intervention team.

According to the National Gang Center, a multi-agency intervention team can increase the effectiveness of each agency’s efforts, reduce duplication of services, increase access to needed services, and ensure that gang members are held accountable for their actions.

The work of the Intervention Team is predicated on the following beliefs:

  • Each gang member is a unique individual who joined the gang for unique reasons and who needs an individualized response.
  • Each gang member affects (and is affected by) multiple domains such as family, neighborhood, school, and peers.
  • Gang members often experience uncoordinated multiple-agency involvement and are high-end service users.
  • Gang members frequently encounter barriers to needed services.

The team-based approach helps ensure that all agencies working with these clients have a common goal and shared strategies for each client.

Short-term goals for the team include:

  • Creating individualized case management plans for gang members participating in the project.
  • Engaging gang members in direct services to address their specific needs.
  • Working together to dismantle or surmount barriers to accessing services.
  • Holding gang members accountable for negative behaviors.

Long-term goals for the team include:

  • Assisting gang members in transitioning out of the gang lifestyle.
  • Improving the effectiveness of agencies serving gang-involved clients.
  • Reducing overall gang-related crime in the community.

Celeste Wojtalewicz, also a senior research associate at the National Gang Center, said the program has been implemented at five sites, including Mesa, Ariz., and Riverside, Calif.

“This program has been shown to work,” Wojtalewicz said. “This is an opportunity to bring what you are doing together and be comprehensive in your approach.”

She added that success in reducing gang participation and violence requires three components – prevention, intervention and suppression.

Police Capt. Steve Richardson shared with the group the suppression efforts that have been undertaken, which have led to a major reduction in gang violence. The suppression efforts began with department reorganization and the formation of an internal task force in 2017.

The department then launched a major investigation targeting gang sets. The investigation used every tool of technology as well as community help and the use of informants.

Another key component was the formation of a youth and community engagement team that holds regular events in the community to build trust with parents and children.

Also, the formation of partnerships has been essential, Richardson said. Those partnerships include local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, the Commonwealth’s Attorney office, the U.S. Attorney’s office, probation and parole offices, and community groups.

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