Following another shooting in San Bernardino leading to the arrest of a 15-year-old and the death of a 14-year-old, over 40 people gathered at a press conference to demand that city leadership increase funding to the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) which has been proven in other cities to drastically lower gun violence in communities similar to San Bernardino. Councilmembers Kimberly Calvin and Damon L. Alexander spoke in support of funding an alternative to reactionary policing.
“I will back anyone up doing the right thing, this is the right thing.” said Councilmember Alexander of the city’s 7th ward.
Community and faith leaders from San Bernardino Common Ground for Peace organized a press conference Wednesday, July 14, to make public the request of $1.5 million from the city’s Measure S tax to increase the program’s efficiency. Those who work within the multifaceted program spoke about the need for strategic office space in different wards and to increase the employment of former gang members of all genders to help respond to violent shootings in San Bernardino.
In addition, partner and champion of the Loma Linda University Medical Center’s Hospital Based Violence Intervention Program Dr. Sigrid Burruss spoke of national and local statistics that have increased during Covid-19 due to social factors derived from poverty.
“Back in January of 2020 is when we started this (hospital-based) program. At that time our penetrative injury rate was at 11%, so that includes gunshots and stab wounds. During the covid pandemic however those numbers have gone up dramatically and part of it is those pre-existing inequalities within our community including loss of job opportunities, loss of educational opportunities and lack of appropriate and timely access to healthcare including support for mental health and increases in all those other stressors really contribute to that cycle of violence. In December of 2020 our penetrating trauma rates were at 17.5%,” Burruss noted.
As cities move towards opening after the pandemic communities impacted by violence will continue to see an increase in crime unless city leadership makes an effort to fund preventative solutions that provide resources to those in need. This demand for funding aligns with President Biden’s call to invest in job training for formerly incarcerated individuals and youth, as well as investments to improve public safety through alternative programs.
“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about. That’s why we need real leadership to invest in our city’s future and longevity. We can only do this by working together to bring out-of-the-box solutions like the VIP program to help restore our city’s vitality,” remarked Kesha McGee, ICUC Board President.