A Madison-based advocacy group focused on ending gun violence is pushing for a $1.2 million expenditure to implement a gun violence reduction strategy through Public Health Madison’s Dane County Violence Prevention Unit.

Data from Dane County’s violence prevention unit shows a steep rise in violent crimes and shots fired in both Madison and Dane County in 2020. This upward trend increased nationwide in 2021, according to Public Health Madison and Dane County.

Focused Interruption, founded in 2016, wants to respond to this increase in gun-related violence in Madison with an initiative called the Gun Violence Reduction Strategy. This strategy has been successful in several major cities across the United States since 1996 and presents a solution to Madison’s growing gun violence problem, according to the Focus Interruption website. 

The strategy aims to rely on law enforcement only as a last resort, and instead focus on identifying individuals at high risk of experiencing gun violence and providing them services, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

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According to Focus Interruption, Black residents make up 7% of Madison’s population but account for 55% of gun violence victims in the past five years. The Focus Interruption webpage said their plan encompasses three goals — increasing programming for high-risk groups, providing hospital and family outreach and supporting healthy communities.

To further push for this initiative, the nonprofit will host a “Stop the Shootings” webinar on Oct. 26. The event will feature Focused Interruption founder and CEO Anthony Cooper Sr., who will be joined by David Muhammed — the executive director for the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform  that created the Gun Violence Reduction Strategy. 

The Campus Area Neighborhood Association has encouraged individuals to support the strategy by contacting their local representatives and attending the information event next week.

Cleo Le, the Vice president of the Campus Area Neighborhood Association, said in an email statement that she personally supports Focused Interruption’s interdisciplinary approach to gun violence prevention in Madison.

Focused Interruption strategy entails a comprehensive, evidence-based, public health approach to violence reduction that has been implemented in cities across the country since 1996, typically reducing shootings by 30% – 60%,” Le said.

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Since the organization’s founding in 2016, Forward Interruption has helped over 300 victims of gun violence in collaboration with community members, according to NBC15.

The group hopes the initiative would be implemented by the Public Health Violence Prevention Unit, which is housed within Public Health Madison and Dane County.

“Health and racial equity is a core value of PHMDC and the Violence Prevention Unit,” said Sarah Mattes, a PHMDC supervisor. “We focus our strategies, initiatives, and programming on making institutional and systemic change in order to combat racial inequities seen in violence and other aspects of health and wellbeing.”

Madison’s Public Health Violence Prevention team recently received a grant for community-based crime reduction to address crime and violence in the downtown area, according to Public Health Madison and Dane County.

“The projects associated with this grant are designed to build trust and support law enforcement agencies working in the community by integrating enforcement strategies into community-based crime reduction efforts and using information and data to understand and target the issues driving crime,” Mattes said.

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The Madison and Dane County Violence Prevention Coalition — also known as MDCVPC — has met with community stakeholders and partners frequently to discuss the development of 2022 action plans to change and contribute to the prevention landscape of violence in our community, Mattes said.

Through collaboration with law enforcement, Dane County Human Services, Dane County Emergency Management, Dane County Criminal Justice Council and Wisconsin Department of Justice, Mattes said MDCVPC will continue to work on more robust data capture and analysis system to ensure access to quality data and inform other decisions.