The federal funds, coming in the form of a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, will go toward the city’s Community Violence Intervention program.
The program focuses on historically underserved communities in and around Orlando, implementing proactive, preventative measures to reduce gun violence and homicides. Violence not only drains public safety resources, it can negatively affect the health, safety, and overall quality of life in those communities that see a greater share.
U.S. Congressman Maxwell Frost, a freshman politician and former organizing director of March for Our Lives, was key to acquiring the federal grant, which he presented to Orlando city commissioners and the mayor earlier this month. Frost, a Democrat, shared in a statement that this investment in the community violence program first launched last year “marks a significant step towards addressing the root causes of this pervasive issue.”
“These interventions are taking place not in an office but in our most vulnerable communities, working with the folks who are most likely to commit [violence] or fall victim to it,” Frost added.
Over the first 11 months of the community violence program, from last November to September of this year, shootings in the city of Orlando decreased 37%, while gunshot wounds decreased 31%, according to city documents. Homicides have decreased 9% over the same period.
The program, led by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, deploys a team of “neighborhood change associates” who work on forming connections within the community to proactively address gun violence. Staff focus on street outreach, community mobilization, mentoring, and connecting communities members with local support services to address root social and economic risk factors for gun violence.
Orlando city commissioners will also vote Monday afternoon on whether to purchase the site of the former Pulse nightclub south of downtown for $2 million, with the goal of eventually erecting a permanent memorial.
That move, which will reportedly involve the demolition of part or all the current property, has been celebrated by some in the community and questioned by others, including some survivors of the mass shooting at Pulse in 2016 that killed 49 people.
Some critics of the land purchase believe the city is trying to cover up alleged code violations on behalf of the property's current owners.
The city has disputed this. "Pulse did not have a pattern of life safety issues, and in fact investigations did not show any meaningful violations. Nor did they have any at the time of the shooting," a city spokesperson told WESH News in a statement.
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