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City of Aurora launches new approach to curbing youth violence

Aurora youth violence
Posted at 4:50 PM, Aug 08, 2023

AURORA, Colo. — The City of Aurora is launching a new approach to reduce youth violence through a collaboration between police, the Youth Violence Prevention Program and community partners.

The strategy is called Standing Against Violence Every Day, or SAVE, and is modeled after the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) strategy.

“The Aurora Police Department was chosen to be part of the Public Safety Partnership, which is a Department of Justice-sponsored program through the Bureau of Justice Assistance," explained APD Division Chief Mark Hildebrand. "Within that program, we look at best practices across the nation and a lot of departments and cities have gone with a Group Violence Intervention strategy to impact violent crime. We wanted to adopt that strategy here in Aurora.”

The National Network for Safe Communities (NNSC) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice has worked with community partners to develop and implement that GVI approach in more than 60 cities, including Chicago, Miami and Philadelphia. Each city — now including Aurora — gets a plan tailored for the unique characteristics of their community.

“It has taken us a lot of time and planning from when this was first thought about late last year to actually get to the point of implementation and rolling it out, which we just did today," Hildebrand said Tuesday.

In preparation for the launch, the NNSC completed a problem analysis for Aurora and found a very small segment of the population is involved in violent crime.

"Overall, these findings are consistent with cities across the country, where groups typically drive up to half of all serious violence," the report reads. "The problem analysis highlights the need to operationalize street level intelligence and to use it to track the involvement of street groups in serious violence."

That report was published in July and is available in full online here.

"If we can impact that very small group of individuals that are having a huge negative impact in our community with crimes of violence, and we can impact them in a positive way and let them know that there are repercussions for their actions and what those repercussions might be — that is a deterrence part to this approach, that we will have positive outcomes, and that's our hope," Hildebrand said.

He explained that the SAVE program is designed to focus on youth between the ages of 15 and 24 who are most active in violent crime in the community, and determine how to best reach out to them and get them off the path toward continuous violence by offering resources.

Joseph DeHerrera, youth violence prevention program manager and SAVE co-director, said this means not just handing a piece of paper with a list of resources to a juvenile or their family, but rather helping them get to appointments at those resources. It extends out to SAVE understanding the dynamics of the family, completing needs assessments, creating personalized plans to guide youth away from violence, daily check-ins and more.

Consultants with NNSC were in Aurora last week to help stand the program up, DeHerrera said. Partners attended multiple trainings to help them identify violence dynamics in Aurora and provided information on the key parts of the GVI strategy and how it applies to Aurora.

"These are ordinary neighborhoods with a small number of high-risk people," said Aurora Police Capt. Mike Hanifin. He is also a SAVE co-director. "Historically, law enforcement entities would flood select neighborhoods with enforcement measures such as arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations. With SAVE, we seek to reach the specific, limited number of people who are driving the violence."

As SAVE moves forward, Aurora partners will begin using different ways of communication, including call-ins, face-to-face meetings and custom notifications.

With the GVI strategy, a governing board is required and stretches across multiple regional partners. As of Tuesday afternoon, the board includes:

  • Aurora City Council Member Angela Lawson
  • Aurora City Council Member Ruben Medina
  • Aurora city leaders
  • 17th and 18th Judicial District District Attorneys
  • A1 Boxing
  • Adams County Public Health
  • Arapahoe County Public Health
  • Aurora Public Schools 
  • Cherry Creek School District
  • Aurora Mental Health Center
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
  • Colorado Department of Corrections
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office
  • University of Colorado Hospital

To learn more about SAVE, visit the website

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