Why Stand Up?
San Antonio Metropolitan Health District’s Program to Curb Gun Violence
People are attracted to San Antonio because it has a reputation as a city that is on the rise, a forward thinking city, and a safe city. Out of 224 Texas cities, the Alamo City was ranked the 215th safest city based on the 2018 study by the National Council for Home Safety and Security. In reality, the city ranked sixth nationally in 2016 in homicides and violent crimes of the nation’s largest cities with a per capita homicide rate of 10.8 per 100,000 population.
To mitigate increasing community violence, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District made the decision in 2015 to implement the evidence-based model of treating violence as a disease, as theorized by Dr. Gary Slutkin.
The model focuses specifically on retaliatory crime, in that one act of violence perpetuates another creating a cycle of violence. This philosophy is carried out on a local city level by the Stand Up SA Program. The model aims to reduce the occurrence of violence through three key strategic components:
Identifying and changing the mindset of potential perpetrators; and,
Changing community norms regarding violence.
Within the first quarter of existence, the numbers of murders in the designated target areas decreased dramatically by 85% and continued to remain low for the rest of the year. In May 2017, Stand Up launched a 90-day campaign to ‘Silence the Violence’ in an attempt to reduce gang violence through the summer months. Several Stand Up events were scheduled throughout the period to celebrate the reduced violence with residents. While violence was not totally erased, each of the target communities experienced a reduction from the last year.
Stand Up SA deploys effective staff members in target communities to identify conflicts and enlist the individuals to interrupt the cycle of violence. We draw on the credibility that these embedded staff members of Stand Up SA have acquired through their personal and past experiences with the criminal justice system, and their community connections, using them as a catalyst to evoke behavioral changes and limiting beliefs of misconceived norms. Stand Up SA engages with youth and young adults between the ages of 5-24 years of age at an elevated risk of witnessing violence, perpetrating violence, or having violence committed against them. Upon engaging and establishing a meaningful connection with these at-risk participants, our staff works closely with each participant to convince them to reject the use of violence. Education on the cost and consequences of violence is reinforced by teaching alternative responses to potentially violent situations and by connecting participants with relevant resources.
In 2018, Stand Up SA modified the use of Dr. Slutkin’s model to specifically address the violence issues unique to San Antonio. While the prevention of violence remains the top priority, Stand Up SA is also focused on identifying individuals who are at an elevated risk of recidivism and attempting to ‘break the cycle’ of returning to incarceration.
Stand Up SA is reestablishing relationships with the city’s two dedicated Level 1 trauma hospitals, University Hospital and Brooke Army Medical Center. These partnerships will allow the hospitals to address the short-term, crisis-driven needs, while allowing Stand Up SA to gather critical information and intervene on-site to reduce the chances of violence due to retaliation. We also have the opportunity to address long-standing needs and provide access to resources for long-term solutions that will make a better quality of life possible by partnering with Chrysalis Ministries which specializes in providing social service programs for individuals and families so they may overcome the consequences of incarceration.
Current Stand Up SA staffing includes a total of 12 outreach workers, who actively engage in street-level conflict resolution. All staff members are trained in specialized intervention strategies with the aim of de-escalating situations and prevent further violence from occurring. Efforts also focus on enrolling high-risk youth into Stand Up SA’s Case Management Program, which connects those at-risk individuals with relevant and effective resources, services, and support groups within the community. Each outreach worker on staff maintains a caseload of 4-15 elevated risk participants for long-term case management.
Although Stand Up SA has been instrumental in aiding in a variety of other related issues such as kidnapping, rape, and drug incidents, our main focus and top priority will always be our mission to reduce gun violence and convince communities to STAND UP against violence.
Stand Up S.A. will focus on
- interrupting transmission
- changing behaviors and
- community norms
Stand Up SA works to prevent gun violence with conversation (KSAT)
“Credible messengers” are hired and trained to develop relationships and trust within the community in order to “interrupt” violence.