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Gun violence study now underway in Green Bay

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 6:00 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The City of Green Bay is hoping a new initiative started this week will provide a clearer understanding to what’s causing a surge in gun violence and then provide good solutions to curb it.

Shots fired calls jumped sharply the last two years, hitting a record 82 in 2021.

In the midst of that, as we first told you in December, Green Bay asked the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform to conduct an in-depth study here and then offer some solutions.

The police chief is optimistic is will lead to change.

“If you’re going to implement a solution to a gun violence problem, first you have to have a really clear understanding of what the problem actually is,” says Green Bay Police Chief Chris Davis.

The day Davis was sworn in as Green Bay’s new police chief in September, he told us he had plans of conducting a violence study in 2022.

Just three months later, when gun violence in the city escalated rapidly, with seven shootings in less than 12 hours, that plan became high priority.

That day, Davis announced plans to bring the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform to the city as soon as possible.

This week, the group made its first of several visits.

“We are looking for what are the root causes and then where are the places in the community where we need to focus our intervention efforts,” explains Davis.

Enforcement has worked in the past, with special violent crime teams targeting specific neighborhoods and people to reduce the problem, but the impact is almost always short-term.

“Two things happen. Usually the problem doesn’t go away. It comes back because those dynamics that led to it in the first place weren’t addressed, but that approach also does a lot of collateral damage to community trust,” says Davis. “And it’s very important that in the process of solving this problem, we don’t further marginalize historically marginalized groups in our community.”

The plan isn’t just about enforcement. The chief says it also comes with social services and ways to help those directly affected by the violence.

“Sometimes I hear the belief that if we just try to divert people into social services or programming than we don’t need the police side of the equation. What NICJR will tell you is that’s a mistake. You actually do need both,” he says

There’s still accountability and zero tolerance for crimes, but once police are able to identify certain people involved, whether they’re victims or committing crimes themselves, Davis says a very different kind of conversation can take place.

“In places where this has been done before, where you kind of come alongside people with that message of... we know. There are no secrets to us and we want to help you get away from that, a lot of times that provides people in that situation with an opportunity they’ve never had before,” he says.

The institute spent time this week meeting with police and will be back again in a few weeks.

Davis hopes to receive a report by spring when more work on implementing prevention programs for those at-risk will become critical.

“We have to do it the right way and do it in a way that does not undermine trust,” adds Davis.

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