Violence Prevention “Think Group” to Gather in Pittsburgh

May 30, 2012

A citywide "think group" is being convened as part of an effort to reduce community violence. The group will look at violence prevention programs from around the country to determine which aspects of them work and in what situations they perform best.

The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health's Center for Health Equity will guide the effort. One Vision One Life executive director Richard Garland has been selected to head the program as an independent consultant. Garland said the group would be modeled after other organizations across the nation.

"Some have other programs going individually — Boston has one, Cincinnati has one — so we want to look at all of them and have conversations with them around these particular issues, how we do what we do, and what's the best thing for the community," Garland said.

Similar groups in other cities have launched programs ranging from positive after-school activities to underground movements involving negotiations between rival gangs.

The city of Pittsburgh and the U.S. Attorney's office in Pittsburgh have launched similar anti-violence and anti gang programs in the past.

A computer simulation could be created based on the research done by the "think group" that might lead to better programs in Pittsburgh.

Garland is ready and excited to get the program off the ground. "I look forward to this position and trying to learn a lot more from other folks across this county about different strategies they use in order to combat violence," Garland said. He said it could be six months before any new programs are launched.

Garland has his own story of beating the cycle of crime and violence. Growing up in Philadelphia he fell into a life of crime and eventually wound up in state prison in Pittsburgh where he earned his Bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

The group will include representatives from the city of Pittsburgh mayor's office, police department, criminal justice system, and community groups. The team will meet monthly.