Intervention teams offer unique way to fight Philly’s gun violence

City officials highlighted the community-based approach during a weekly briefing

By: - January 6, 2022 10:33 am

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

By Brian Saunders

PHILADELPHIA — As a coordinator for a Philadelphia Group Violence Intervention team, Deion Sumpter has some unique insights on how to stop the shootings in the city.

During Mayor Jim Kenney’s virtual response to gun violence on Wednesday, Sumpter spoke about a positive result he witnessed with the program.

Referring to a young person as Jane Doe to keep their  identity anonymous, Sumpter described the work of GVI teams.

The GVI team met with Doe and discussed the displeasure with Doe’s involvement in groups associated with violence. The team was able to get Doe to commit to going to a job orientation.

After three failed attempts from Doe to show up at the job orientation, Sumpter met with Doe again. However, because they never held employment, Doe had self-doubt.

“I decided to pick up the participant myself, and I drove him to orientation, and I sat with him for the entire orientation,” Sumpter said.

Doe finished the orientation and eventually got full-time employment. Doe also referred three others to the program.

“I believe this story is a great example of our work,” Sumpter said. “It shares our client’s internal struggles and our case managers’ everyday challenges to help improve the outcomes and livelihood of our participants. This work requires moments when you must go above and beyond to best help our participants.”

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Philadelphia began the Group Violence Intervention program in 2020.

According to the city’s website (, “GVI is an evidence-based approach that elevates the role community support and social services play in reducing gun violence. And, most importantly, it involves law enforcement partnering with the community to focus on the small and active number of people driving the violence plaguing many of our neighborhoods.”

In addition to discussing the community-based approaches Wednesday, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw talked about her department’s involvement in the city’s gun violence reduction strategy.

“The PPD is a key component in the city’s gun violence reduction strategy,” Outlaw said. “Every stakeholder must not only be willing to work as a team to solve these problems, but we have to ensure that our individual agencies are working at peak efficiency from within. I’ll say again, what’s happening here in Philadelphia cannot ever be deemed or accepted as normal.”

Outlaw said the PPD has taken more guns off the street and away from purveyors of violence than ever before, 5,920 guns associated with criminal activity in 2021. Also, 571 privately made firearms, otherwise known as “ghost guns,” were recovered.

“Obviously, there’s absolutely more work that needs to be done here,” Outlaw said. “And we’re always looking for ways to improve the services that we provide with the unconscionable amount of shootings that the city experienced last year. So it is imperative that we, the PPD, redouble our efforts to that end.”

The Philadelphia Police Department created a unit designed to work with the homicide unit to investigate non-fatal shootings across the city, Outlaw said.

 “If we can get ahead of our non-fatal shootings, we know that we will do everything that we can in our power to deter the prevention of or the execution of homicides.”

Outlaw added that the police department also enhanced its forensics capabilities.

“We now have enhanced capabilities to conduct analysis of DNA in ways that were not available to us or that we weren’t able to utilize in the past,” Outlaw said. “We hope to roll out this new initiative within the first six weeks of this year.”

Brian Saunders is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared

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