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City of Jackson Group Violence Intervention Coordinator Cheryl Ragland makes a point during the 2023 Summit to Reduce Violence at Jackson College Friday.  Photo by Jeff Steers, JTV News.

By Jeff Steers
JTV News

(April 21, 2023 3:41 PM ET) Jackson Mayor Daniel Mahoney was happy to report that violent crimes in Jackson were down in 2022.

An intervention program that combines professionals and community members is helping to bring those numbers down in the city of Jackson.

Jackson College hosted the second Summit to Reduce Violence on Friday continuing conversations about how Jackson can reduce violent crimes in the city.

Mahoney said homicides were down 57 percent in 2022 and the number of persons shot was down 45 percent.

“We still have work to do … one percent is still too much,” Mahoney said. 

He said the Group Violence Intervention program started by the city a year ago is helping those numbers.

The City of Jackson Group Violence Intervention (also called GVI) unites community leaders around a common goal: to stop gun violence and keep Jackson’s highest risk citizens alive and out of prison. 

GVI is a partnership among community leaders from law enforcement, government, education, civil service, healthcare, and faith-based agencies. Based on a proven model developed by David M. Kennedy, director of the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, GVI advocates direct, sustained engagement with street groups that cause the majority of Jackson’s gun violence. 

The strategy empowers community members to set clear moral standards against violence in their communities and reclaim a voice in the way they want to live. It coordinates the efforts of local, state, and federal law enforcement to focus crime prevention efforts on the groups most associated with gun violence. GVI also draws on the expertise of social service providers to offer group members a path away from violence.

Cheryl Ragland is the coordinator for the City of Jackson. She outlined the strategies of the group during the Summit. 

Ragland stepped in for Michigan State University Professor Chris Melde – the Director of the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. A family emergency caused Melde to cancel his invitation to the Summit.

The coordinator had one day to pull everything together for the Summit.

She noted that the problem of violence is caused by a small percentage of people in Jackson. Ragland said less than one-third of a percent of residents in Jackson are responsible for 52 percent of the shootings in the city. 

“GVI is a team effort attempting to change the trajectory of life for residents in Jackson,” Ragland said. “I take a win when I win one.

“We do what we can.”

The approach includes community leaders, social services, and law enforcement having conversations with those involved in violent crimes. Just talking can sometimes turn people around.

The city is expected to receive training for street outreach workers in the next few months. Jackson started looking at GVI – according to Police Chief Elmer hit – in 2017 but was slowed by COVID 19. The program is still “very new” according to Hitt.

Moderator Corey Prior led a panel discussion with students, law enforcement, and professionals from Jackson following the presentation by Ragland. 

Breakout group sessions were held in the afternoon to discuss economics, faith-based approaches, family and victim impact, healthcare, law enforcement/judicial, and education. 

The groups are expected to meet throughout the next year in an attempt to produce solutions for the 2024 Summit. 

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