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Louisville office combating gun violence through ‘public health’ approach

Dr. Monique Williams and Vincent James with the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods talked about violence at the weekly COVID briefing.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Gun violence was the main topic of conversation at this week’s COVID-19 briefing as the city of Louisville deals with a rising number of homicides.

Dr. Monique Williams and Vincent James with the Louisville Metro Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods (OSHN) joined Dr. Sarah Moyer, the director of the Department of Public Health and Wellness, at Tuesday’s virtual meeting.

James opened the discussion with the history of the OSHN, which was created in 2012 to focus on violence prevention following a triple homicide in 2012. The office aims to reduce the numbers of homicide, suicide and drug overdoses in the city, but Williams said the department is doubling down on homicide right now.

So far, the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) is investigating 155 homicides for 2021. Of those homicides, 31 involved children under the age of 18.

Williams said the department is taking a “public health” approach to combat violence. Instead of focusing on solving crimes after they happen, the office is tasked with creating strategies to prevent violent acts from happening in the first place.

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Some of these strategies include connecting with local school districts and mental health providers who can reach the young people who are likely to become involved with violence due to a variety of factors. The office also implements its own version of contact tracing – identifying potential “sources” of violence, then isolating and rehabilitating them.

James said the issue of violence in the city is a “multi-sector” one and it requires several different communities to come together. He said the OSHN is working alongside community partners to reach people who are in underserved communities and provide resources for them to keep violence from happening.

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