Violence Prevention

Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI)

Violence is a significant public health problem impacting the health and well-being of communities throughout the United States. Despite reductions in other areas of premature death, the Allegheny County homicide rate has risen in recent years.  From 2012 to 2015, the number of homicides in Allegheny County increased from 108 to 114.  Violence continues to disproportionately affect certain demographic groups-in particular, young African American men.  Despite the fact that only 13% of Allegheny County residents are Black or African American, 81% of the homicide victims in 2015 were Black.  The vast majority of the homicides are caused by gunshot wounds--86% of the total in 2015. 

The Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) is a multipart effort dedicated to addressing community violence.  VPI is led by Richard Garland and Steven Albert.  The main programs of VPI are the Homicide Review and Gunshot Reoccurring Injury Prevention Services (GRIPS).

The Homicide Review has been examining homicides in the City of Pittsburgh since 2012.  In 2014 the Homicide Review expanded to all of Allegheny County.  The Homicide Review combines epidemiologic surveillance with community-based participation to better understand neighborhood dynamics associated with violence.  The ultimate goal of the Homicide Review is to develop intervention strategies for reducing the homicide rate in Allegheny County.  For more information, contact Gina Brooks, the Homicide Review Coordinator.

GRIPS is a hospital-based violence intervention program with the goald os preventing firearm assault reinjury and criminal involvement.  Firearm assault survivors are recruited from hospital sites and offered case management and social support.  With the help of GRIPS interventionists, participants outline goal areas (e.g., employment, completing GED) to address during the 6-month duration of the intervention.  Participants complete a questionnaire at baseline and follow-up.  For more information, contact Brianna McDonough, the GRIPS Project Coordinator.  University of Pittsburgh IRB#PRO13120052 and #NCT02642224.

Additional VPI affiliates include faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences (Todd BearLora Ann Bray, Jessica BurkePatricia Documét) and Epidemiology (Andrea Arrington, Anthony Fabio). 

Key findings from 2015 Homicide Review Report include:

  • Homicides disproportionately affected certain groups and areas. Men accounted for 83% of all homicide victims, of which over 84% were African American. Homicide victims were typically between the ages of 18-25.  Pittsburgh Police Zone 5 overwhelmingly experienced the highest number of homicides, 27 overall.  
  • Firearms were the main cause of death. Cause of death in 86% of homicides was a gunshot wound.
  • Peer conflict was a primary cause of homicides. Peer conflict was identified as a key factor in 66% of homicides.  Intimate Partner and Domestic violence was the second leading cause of death at 13 homicides.  
  • Social determinants are risk factors for homicides. Homicides in Allegheny County usually occurred between the hours of 9pm and 3am.  The summer months had the most homicides with July at 15% of homicides.  Homicides were most likely to happen on a Tuesday or Saturday.