The Office of Violence Prevention aims to reduce violence throughout Allegheny County. Specifically, our efforts center on reducing gun violence through a variety of strategies. To do this, we partner with other governmental, non-profit, neighborhood, and faith-based organizations. Our work demonstrates a coordinated response, which leverages the strengths of a wide variety of stakeholders.
With financial support from the Heinz Endowments, ACHD established the Office of Violence Prevention in Fall 2016. Our office is tasked with implementing the recommendations and action items in the report presented by the Public Health Commission(PDF, 2MB).
Our office works with the Department of Human Services and the City of Pittsburgh on initial steps. These actions include:
- Creation of a Violence Prevention Community Advisory Board, with wide representation of high-risk areas
- Development of a Trauma Response Team to promote psychological and emotional wellness for residents affected by violence
- Street Outreach Team to focus on prevention of potential conflict
- Resources to support the distribution of micro-grants to support neighborhood-specific violence prevention strategies
For more information, please contact Ashley Blakeman by phone at 412-247-7957.
The Public Health Commission on Preventing Violence & Promoting Community Mental Health
In May 2013, a 24-member commission was charged with finding ways to reduce violence and promote positive mental health and community well-being in Allegheny County. Members of the commission included elected officials, health professionals, community advocates, members of law enforcement, and foundation representatives.
The commission was asked to provide recommendations and an implementation plan of what the county could do to help address these issues. Over the next year and a half, members worked to review existing research, evaluate best practices, interface with research professionals, and survey programs related to the issues of violence and community mental health.
At the end of the study period, the commission created the Public Health collaborative and issued a Report on Preventing Violence(PDF, 2MB). The report recommended the following:
- Implementation of evidence-based programs to deter involvement in the criminal justice system
- Offering training and support to community leaders working to reduce youth violence
- A redesign of police strategies that would help reduce the likelihood of further acts of violence
- The development of a template that can connect youth with appropriate social services
- The establishment of a protocol for school administrators when violence occurs
With respect to mental health, the commission recommended the following:
- Expanding programming in Family Support Centers
- Implementing a Trauma Informed Care Model throughout the county
- Promotion of programs that reduce stigma and cultural barriers for those seeking mental health services
- Advocating for hospitals to coordinate discharge plans with school personnel and parents/guardians
- Establish a short-term interdisciplinary group to develop an assessment tool for the behavioral health needs of students
Gun Violence in Allegheny County
Gun violence is a substantial problem in Allegheny County, and it is a leading cause of premature death.From 2016-2021, there were 643 homicides in the county. After a decline in homicides from 2016-2019, the county experienced a 27% increase over the past 3 years. In 2021, there was 118 homicides which is a 6% increase from 2020 (111). Homicide rates from 2016-2021 increased from 8.8 to 9.7 per 100,000 people in the county and decreased from 19.5 to 17.5 per 100,000 people in the City of Pittsburgh. As of June 29, 2022, Allegheny County has had 61 homicides with 37 occurring within the City of Pittsburgh.
2016-2021 Key Facts
- 66% of homicide victims are Black men between the ages 18-34
- 86% of homicides are committed with a firearm; 90% so far in 2022
- 86% of victims were murdered within 10 miles of their home
- Homicides are concentrated in East Hills, Homewood, Larimer, Lincoln-Lemington, and Wilkinsburg. Other areas with a high number of homicides include upper Northside, Hill District, South Hilltop, West End, Penn Hills, and Mon Valley.
- A majority of the homicides in Allegheny County involve guns. Many of these homicides are the result of shootings from street violence, rather than family disputes or domestic violence. Two main reasons for these homicides (as identified by law enforcement) are disputes (71%) and drug-related reasons (21%).
For more a more in-depth look at gun violence data, check out the Allegheny County Department of Human Services Gun Violence Dashboard. This searchable database is updated monthly.
Consequences of Gun Violence
Not all gunshot injuries result in death; however, they all have the potential to reduce overall quality of life, shorten life expectancy, and contribute to long-term chronic illnesses. Other consequences for survivors include physical disfigurement and disability, severe depression, anxiety, and loss of employment. According to research conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety and Support Fund, the cost associated with gun violence in 2022 in the United States totals $557 billion. These costs are broken into three categories:
- Immediate costs: hospital treatment, ambulances, and police response
- Subsequent costs: long-term physical and mental health care, institutional care, lost wages due to disability or death, and criminal justice costs
- Quality of Life costs: pain and suffering for throughout a victim's lifespan
Based on data, the 61 homicides that occurred in 2022 in Allegheny County cost the state $749,505,152 and taxpayers $46,063,656.
For more information on gun violence impact in Pennsylvania, check out Everystat.org.
The Public Health Approach to Preventing Gun Violence
The principles of public health provide a framework to help us investigate and understand the causes and consequences of gun violence. The public health approach is also useful for preventing gun violence from occurring through primary prevention programs, policy interventions, and advocacy.
Ultimately, a public health approach aims to address the underlying risk factors that influence the likelihood of someone becoming a perpetrator or victim of gun violence. Steps in the public health approach include:
- Using data to define the nature and scope of the local gun violence problem
- Researching factors that increase or decrease the risks for gun violence
- Designing, implementing, and evaluating prevention strategies
- Implementing and supporting effective and promising plans for individuals, families, and communities
Office of Violence Prevention Program Manager
Office of Violence Prevention Program Coordinator
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