Orlando’s leaders and gun violence survivors met Wednesday with Congressman Maxwell Frost to discuss the city’s Community Violence Intervention program — and the promise it’s shown to reduce shootings and gun homicides in its first year.

The program, known also as CVI, aims to stop violent incidents before they escalate through mediation and resources to get at the heart of confrontations. It initially targeted five neighborhoods citywide, enlisting influential residents known as “Neighborhood Change Associates” as part of the solution.

Frost, an Orlando Democrat joined by U.S. House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark, D-Mass., said he hopes federal money allocated to CVI — including a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Justice to expand it — continues to save lives.

Created in 2022 using taxpayer funds from the American Rescue Plan, it has since been expanded to cover eight neighborhoods through the DOJ grant secured by Frost. An additional $750,000 in federal money will go to refurbishing Grand Avenue Neighborhood Center, where the meeting took place.

A similar program has since been recommended for expansion countywide as part of the Citizens Safety Task Force convened last year. Though Orange County has its own initiative through the credible messenger program tackling youth violence, it has not formally proposed its own CVI program.

“I’m all about community-based solutions and figure out how we use that federal money for the work you all are doing here in the community to save lives every day,” Frost said. “We want to see it expanded — hopefully in the county and continue from there.”

The meeting was one stop of many in Frost and Clark’s visit to Central Florida as part of a tour tackling issues from housing to public safety. In Orlando, officials boast the reported success of the CVI program which recruits at-risk residents known as “fellows” and offers them resources — checking in with them daily to ensure they follow set life plans.

The result? A 20% citywide reduction in gun homicides in the program’s first year from November 2022 to October 2023, as well as a 36% drop in nonfatal shootings in the same period, according to an analysis of Orlando Police Department data by the Center for Global Healthy Cities.

In the first year, 47 fellows were recruited, with one killed since it began, according to the report. Of the surviving fellows, about 83% had not been arrested on new gun charges while roughly 91% had no new gun injuries.

The program currently has 64 fellows among its ranks, said Raysean Brown of Peace Orlando, a gun violence prevention program under the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition which is contracted with the city to run the CVI program.

“It’s a lot of repetition, it’s a lot of in-your-face, it’s a lot of intentionality,” Brown said of work done with the fellows. “We are literally in the business of saving lives.”

Frost and Clark also met with survivors of gun violence, including Tuwanan Ware, whose son was fatally shot early last year. Since then, she and Charlotte Davis, a community activist whose son was killed in 2022, co-founded Village Of Love.

A support group for families who lost loved ones to gun violence, the group offers help with funeral arrangements and organizing vigils for those affected, as well as providing a space for emotional support.

While it works separately from CVI, it’s one of many organizations that collaborate with violence intervention efforts.

“It’s a group of survivors so to speak, but I don’t want you in this group,” Ware said with a laugh. “But if you unfortunately have to be a part of the group, we’re here to hold your hand at night, three o’clock in the morning. We’re there as a support system.”


Original story HERE.