The Group Violence Intervention strategy has been running in Davenport since early 2022 after training with efforts in South Bend, Indiana.
SOUTH BEND, Indiana — The Quad Cities join new efforts to overcome gun violence crisis.
One of the new measures has been used for years in other parts of the country about the size of Davenport.
The Group Violence Intervention strategy has been running in Davenport since early 2022. And about four hours east, the city of South Bend, Indiana, schooled Davenport in its efforts after being the center of attention for the past decade.
It uses community members, law enforcement and social services. Here’s a look at the normal process for team members and clients through GVI:
“I’m Mychael Winston with Goodwill. We’re here at GVI with the SAVE (Stand Against Violence Everyday) initiative,” said SAVE Outreach Director Winston after responding to a mock version of former GVI client David Miller who went to his doorstep. “Our job is to break down your barriers and help you be a productive citizen.”
David said his father was murdered and part of gang violence leading to the beginning of a series of events in David’s life at the age of 8.
“I learned how to be a gangster from my mother,” David said. “I didn’t have a father figure. My mother taught me how to run these roads.”
On the streets, David Miller led him astray, where he faced charges such as robbery and home break-ins. He was eventually imprisoned as a teenager.
“When I realized these king brothers don’t love me the way I love them,” David said.
“We can really help and it won’t cost you anything,” Winston said.
Police say they hope it stays that way “for free”.
“We don’t want to put sheets over dead bodies and knock on mom’s door,” South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski said. “These are things we don’t want to do, we shouldn’t.”
“We can no longer allow people to let their babies sleep in the bathtub lest they get hit by a stray bullet,” Ruszkowski said. “Anything above zero is a problem.”
Officials said it wasn’t just men behind the crime. The leaders said there has been a shift, at least in the past year, with more women and young children involved in the violence.
“They’re getting younger … 12, 13, 14 years old,” said Karen White, a member of South Bend’s Common Council.
“Often, you [the women] are the ones holding the gun while the man goes off and shoots,” said Gladys Muhammad, longtime South Bend activist and GVI member.
White and Muhammad are pillars in the South Bend community who speak openly about crime.
“The community needs to come together,” White said. “It’s about giving them hope, helping them understand who they are, loving themselves.”
Opening new doors to possibilities in life is also part of what we offer GVI customers.
“We’ve literally seen grown men burst into tears and wept because this is the first time they’ve achieved something,” said Pastor Canneth Lee of GVI.
The city’s GVI team suggests jobs, education and training through Goodwill Industries.
“This has been one of the most important strategies this community has adopted,” said Maurice Scott, South Bend’s director of community initiatives.
Outreach also draws attention to potential policy changes, hosts firefighting clinics and driver’s license dispensations.
“You’re right there, you can get it right there,” Scott said. “They will splatter you every time they see you, they will touch you. That’s the power behind it. It is not a program that requires you to sign up. They will find you.”
David is proof that he came out the other side.
“GVI gave me a chance,” said David. “Many of them are dead or in prison right now. I was taught to be non-violent through the GVI program.”
David is a clean man now, with kids and a new job.
The GVI team is made up of people from all kinds of backgrounds, including people who have been to jail or prison.
Workers meet with judges, prosecutors and attorneys to help with cases for people who have been trying to find a break in life.
Before COVID, at least 800 people a year were being helped in South Bend, according to emergency officials. Around 350 residents have received assistance since COVID began.
The program was also implemented in the Cedar Rapids area. South Bend’s GVI team has trained cities across the country on the strategy established by the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College in New York.
For direct stats in South Bend, click/tap here. For a link to the South Bend GVI team, click/tap here.
To read part 1 of our series on the rollout of GVI in Davenport, click/tap here.
Check out more news, weather and sports on the News 8 YouTube channel