Violence Prevention

Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI)

Violence is a significant public health problem impacting the health and well-being of communities throughout the United States. Despite reductions in other areas of premature death, the Allegheny County homicide rate has risen in recent years.  From 2012 to 2015, the number of homicides in Allegheny County increased from 108 to 114.  Violence continues to disproportionately affect certain demographic groups-in particular, young African American men.  Despite the fact that only 13% of Allegheny County residents are Black or African American, 81% of the homicide victims in 2015 were Black.  The vast majority of the homicides are caused by gunshot wounds--81% of the total in 2016. 

The Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) is a multipart effort dedicated to addressing community violence.  VPI is led by Richard Garland and Steven Albert.  The main programs of VPI are the Homicide Review and Gunshot Reoccurring Injury Prevention Services (GRIPS).

The Homicide Review has been examining homicides in the City of Pittsburgh since 2012.  In 2014 the Homicide Review expanded to all of Allegheny County.  The Homicide Review combines epidemiologic surveillance with community-based participation to better understand neighborhood dynamics associated with violence.  The ultimate goal of the Homicide Review is to develop intervention strategies for reducing the homicide rate in Allegheny County.  For more information, contact Gina Brooks, the Homicide Review Coordinator.

GRIPS is a hospital-based violence intervention program with the goal of preventing firearm assault reinjury and criminal involvement.  Firearm assault survivors are recruited from hospital sites and offered case management and social support.  With the help of GRIPS interventionists, participants outline goal areas (e.g., employment, completing GED) to address during the 6-month duration of the intervention.  Participants complete a questionnaire at baseline and follow-up.  For more information, contact Brianna McDonough, the GRIPS Project Coordinator.  University of Pittsburgh IRB#PRO13120052 and #NCT02642224.

Additional VPI affiliates include faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences (Todd BearLora Ann Bray, Jessica BurkePatricia Documét) and Epidemiology (Andrea Arrington, Anthony Fabio). 

Key findings from 2016 Homicide Review Report include:

  • Homicide victimization continues to be unevenly distributed across populations or places. ​While only 13% of Allegheny County residents are black or African American, 83% of the victims were black.  Twenty eight percent of the homicides occurred in just 1 of Allegheny County's 130 neighborhoods.    
  • Firearms are the main cause of death. Cause of death in 81% of homicides was gunshot wounds.
  • Social context matters for homicide victimization. ​Chronic, multigenerational involvement in violence and illegal activities; additional opportunities for conflict through increased use of social media (e.g., Facebook, Instagram); prevalence of drugs, alcohol, and access to firearms; and violence as normative behavior were identified as relevant in the homicides.