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Majority Leader Gilbert Introduces ‘Project Ceasefire’ and ‘Project Exit’ to Curb Urban Shootings

House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert announced legislation today that would bring two evidence-based violence prevention programs to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“Our goal during the 2019 Special Session is to provide an evidence-based solution to these senseless shootings we’ve seen. Fortunately, there’s a significant body of research that shows which approaches work, and how to implement them,” Gilbert said.

Project Ceasefire is based on the successful ‘Operation Ceasefire' model employed in Boston and documented to be effective by the National Institute of Justice. The program brings federal, state, and local law enforcement together to deter shootings through early intervention.

When implemented in Boston, there was a 63 percent reduction in youth homicides. Assaults with firearms dropped by 25 percent, with a 44 percent drop in assaults by young people using firearms in targeted areas. Calls to police to report “shots fired” fell by 32 percent.

Gilbert’s legislation would create a new division under the Department of Criminal Justice Services that will administer two new grant programs -- Project Ceasefire and Project Exit.

The legislation also creates the Group Violence Intervention Board to oversee the grants, and a Division of Group Violence Intervention under the Department of Criminal Justice Services to administer the grants, serve as a clearinghouse for best practices, and build relationships among the prosecutors, police, and local groups who will make these programs a success.

"Every life lost is a tragedy, but this most recent wave of violence has fallen disproportionately on communities of color, and the economically disadvantaged," Gilbert said. "Children should be able to play in the park without fear. Real-world results show that these programs work. They save lives, and stop shootings before they happen."

“In Boston, violent gangs were put on notice: until the shootings stop, there will be a heavy police presence in your neighborhood. Law enforcement targets the worst offenders, and sends a clear message: until the shooting stops, ‘business as usual’ is over,” Gilbert said.

“At the same time, we want to help gang members who want out of that life to begin their journey. Project Exit will provide grant funds for organizations that do just that: provide education, job training, and other skills to give young men and women an exit ramp,” Gilbert said.  “The funds can also be awarded for projects like gang tattoo removal, and other steps that can help these people on the path to a better life.”

“The message to those mired in a cycle of violence is simple: We will help you if we can, but we will stop you if we must,” he added.

Since both programs use existing resources and organizations, the overall cost is low. Both grants are funded from existing surplus funds.

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