U.S. Department of Justice issues award to support Department of Law and Public Safety’s community violence intervention strategies
For Immediate Release: November 21, 2023
Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance
– Patricia Teffenhart, Executive Director
TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced today that the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety’s (LPS) Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance (VIVA) has won a multiyear, competitive grant of $4,000,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to enhance and expand existing community violence intervention strategies. The project will be led by VIVA’s Office of Violence Intervention and Prevention (OVIP), which will use this federal funding to enhance local coordination among community-based violence intervention (CBVI) providers and other human service agencies. Through closer collaboration and strategic enhancements, OVIP will be able to identify service gaps and develop solutions tailored to the needs of communities most affected by violence.
“New Jersey has established itself as a leader in embracing a public health approach to public safety and gun violence prevention by creating and supporting a statewide network of community violence intervention organizations,” said Attorney General Platkin. “This award will ensure New Jersey continues to innovate and lead. The State has already invested significantly in violence prevention and intervention programming, and we will use this federal grant to enhance our network of providers. By making our system of violence prevention stronger and more resilient, we will continue to make New Jersey safer.”
“This award is an opportunity to build on Attorney General Platkin’s commitment to a restorative and healing approach to public safety,” said Patricia Teffenhart, Executive Director of VIVA. “Communities are strengthened when partners work together, creating a network of pro-social services and activities to respond to and reduce instances of violence. This opportunity will enable us to deepen our investment in two specific communities, creating a blueprint that can be replicated and expanded to support our statewide community violence prevention and intervention infrastructure.”
VIVA currently provides grant funding and programmatic support for violence prevention and intervention services through several programs: the CBVI program, Hospital-based Violence Intervention Program, and Trauma Recovery Centers. These grant programs work to connect trauma survivors and those at risk of violence to services that support their healing and help stem the cycle of violence. CBVI providers work across a continuum: Some provide services to youth who are at-risk or have a heightened risk factor like school delinquency or a sibling in a gang, linking them to mentors or services; others do more focused intervention efforts with individuals who are among the highest risk for violence or victimization, such as deploying street outreach teams led by credible messengers who are trained to de-escalate conflicts. In developing this proposal, VIVA identified that coordination and linkage among providers is key to more fully developing a continuum of violence prevention services. The DOJ award will directly fund such enhancements.
To implement these programs, two community organizations will be selected through a competitive grant application process to receive funds to establish pilot programs at sites operating in communities most impacted by gun violence – one serving a more rural area and another serving a more densely populated area. Each recipient will be required to assess the needs of their community in order to develop a strategy to more effectively coordinate prevention services across systems involving youth and adults who are at risk for violence. A notice of funding for entities to apply for these grant dollars is under development and will be published in 2024.
Service enhancements may take a range of forms, including: strengthening relationships among providers through improved connection to service such as making referrals or coordination of services; better identification of individuals at risk; and conducting cross-trainings and education about available services, strategies and needs in the community. Other service enhancements may focus on the need to collaborate with systems that address intersecting community needs such as access to housing, workforce development and skill-building, or transportation.
Ultimately, LPS will use the information gathered through this pilot program as it expands successful public safety innovation efforts throughout the state. With the lessons learned, VIVA will build the capacity of New Jersey’s statewide network of CBVI providers by promoting promising practices for community violence intervention, creating and sharing training and technical assistance documents, and establishing public forums for shared learning.
Currently, the State’s CBVI grants directly fund 31 community organizations in every region of New Jersey, supporting prevention and intervention strategies that help communities reduce community violence by developing healing relationships among the groups and individuals who are at the center of gun violence.
The programs funded include efforts to address community violence through partnerships and collaborations with local government agencies, law enforcement, victim service providers, community-based organizations, and other community stakeholders.
The Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance serves as the Department of Law and Public Safety’s lead entity creating a statewide infrastructure for victim assistance and violence intervention and prevention services and supports the development of new initiatives and strategies in those areas. VIVA provides resources and support to community-based organizations that offer these services and helps develop a statewide strategy for the growth and standardization of services.