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King County's Community-Led Approach Showing Promise in Combating Gun Violence

Hacks & Wonks

Release Date: 03/19/2024

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King County is taking a comprehensive, community-focused approach that early data suggests is helping steer young people away from cycles of violence.

In an interview with the Hacks & Wonks podcast, Eleuthera Lisch, director of the King County Regional Office of Gun Violence Prevention, discussed the promising impacts of the county's community violence intervention initiatives.

At the heart of the strategy are organizations like Regional Peacekeepers Collective and Rainier Beach Action Coalition - Restorative Solutions that employ street outreach workers and "violence interrupters" - credible messengers with lived experience who can rapidly respond to shooting incidents.

When violence interrupters are deployed to active scenes involving law enforcement, their role is crucial. "They will be able to de-escalate tensions, they will be able to form rapid rapport, and they will be able to create a follow-up and safety plan for the individuals that they are able to connect with," Lisch explained. Their expertise in crisis intervention and rapport-building can help defuse volatile situations and ensure the well-being of those involved.

Violence interrupters don't just react to youth gun-violence, but work proactively to prevent it. "They're providing daily contact - they're connecting with that young person, they're checking in on their well-being, their safety," said Lisch. "They're helping make sure that that young person is able to access rides and supports to get to and from court as needed, to get re-entered into school, re-engaged in school, to get to employment opportunities."

While the work is still maturing, Lisch pointed to some early positive signs of impact, including:

  • The average age of those involved in shootings rising into the 30s, suggesting fewer youth are getting caught up in violence cycles

  • Over 400 high-risk youth currently being intensively mentored

  • Reductions in youths' re-hospitalization rates after gun injuries

  • Decreases in losses from youth shoplifting near outreach sites

"We're seeing loss prevention happening - that there are less young people, through whatever crisis they are in, going into stores and taking things that don't belong to them," Lisch said.

She cautioned that transformational change can take 4-5 years to manifest fully as interventionists build trust. But the initial data "is a strong indicator that we are seeing a downtrend in young people involved in gun violence."

Lisch stressed the need for sustained funding and coordination across jurisdictions. “First and foremost, our advice is to fund peace, fund safety…If we're seeking safe communities and we're seeking peace, we have to invest in the strategies that help us get there.

The county is working to evaluate the efforts and demonstrate their cost effectiveness. “We've just recently contracted a cost-of-violence analysis to help support our local elected leaders in King County and at the state of Washington level to understand the cost savings of community violence intervention strategies.”

Even as the community intervention programs show promise, Lisch emphasized there are ways all residents can get involved and be part of the solution. "We can all participate in safe storage, and we can all participate in amplifying the message that community-led solutions are important and that they are a functional part of a holistic public safety framework," she said. "We often talk about gun violence being a disease. I want to emphasize, as strongly as I possibly can, that the community is the cure."

The data suggests this public health-focused approach, with the community leading the way, is making a positive impact.

As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.

Follow us on Twitter at @HacksWonks. Find the host, Crystal Fincher, on Twitter at @finchfrii and find the King County Regional Office of Gun Violence Prevention at @kingcountyrgv.

About the Guest 

Eleuthera Lisch

Eleuthera Lisch (She/Her) is a violence prevention professional with over 27- years of experience developing, implementing, and bringing to scale cutting edge gun violence prevention, intervention, public safety, and community reconciliation programs, both nationally and internationally. Eleuthera serves as the inaugural director for the Regional Office of Gun Violence Prevention for Public Health-Seattle & King County.

As a seasoned strategist, social change innovator, advocate for social justice, and champion for community safety and well-being, Eleuthera proudly supports grassroots to “grass tops” partnerships and emerging leaders. She has raised millions in funding/endowments for gun violence prevention programs and other services in Seattle and King County and has consulted to provide subject matter expertise in cities across the nation. 

She received a White House Champion for Change Award in 2012 for her work with the Dept. of Justice National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention and featured as a model "social change agent" in Paul Shoemaker’s Can’t Not Do, The Compelling Social Drive that Changes the World. 

Eleuthera is proud to be a member of the National Office of Prevention Directors Network. She is grateful for the giants whose shoulders the movement to prevent gun violence was built on and honored to work with communities and champions across the nation who strive to ensure that all communities, families, and individuals can live free of violence and thrive. 

Eleuthera was born in Puerto Rico and is the proud daughter of noted activist Arthur Lisch and teacher Paula Lisch. She lives with her husband of 30 years, Patrick Burningham, in Southeast Seattle, Washington.

Find the King County Regional Office of Gun Violence Prevention on Twitter/X at @kingcountyrgv.

Resources

King County Regional Office of Gun Violence Prevention

 

 “King County to start Office of Gun Violence Prevention” by David Gutman from The Seattle Times

 

Community Violence Intervention | Center for Gun Violence Solutions at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

 

Community Based Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative (CVIPI) | Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice

 

Community Violence Intervention Programs, Explained” by Nazish Dholakia and Daniela Gilbert from Vera Institute of Justice

 

King County gun violence data | King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office

 

Lock It Up: Promoting the safe storage of firearms | Public Health - Seattle & King County

 

Governor Newsom Signs Historic Tax on Gun Manufacturers to Fund School Safety and Violence Prevention Programs” | September 26, 2023 Press Release from Office of Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel