Violence Prevention Initiative

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. In 2017, the homicide total for the City of Pittsburgh was 57 (remained the same from 2016) and for the Suburbs 50 (increase of 2% from 2016. While only thirteen percent of Allegheny County residents are Black or African American, eighty three percent of the victims were Black. Twelve percent of the homicides occurred in just 1 zip code of Allegheny County's 130 neighborhoods: 15206.

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

Gunshot Reoccurring Injury Prevention Services

GRIPS is a hospital-based violence intervention program with the goal of preventing firearm assault re-injury 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. 
University of Pittsburgh IRB#PRO13120052 and #NCT02642224.

Homicide Review

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. 

Key findings from 2018 Homicide Review Report:

  • Homicide victimization continues to be unevenly distributed across populations or places. While only 12 percent of Allegheny County residents are black or African American, 74 percent of the victims were black. Ten percent of the homicides occurred in just one zip code of Allegheny County's 130 neighborhoods, zip  code 15217.
  • Firearms are the main cause of death. Cause of death in 90% of homicides was gunshot wounds. Including the 11 victims in the mass shooting. 
  • Social context matters for homicide victimization. Chronic, multigenerational involvement in violence and illegal activities; additional opportunities for conflict through increased use of social media (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and websites attracting extremist); prevalence of drugs, alcohol, and access to firearms; biases and violence as normative behavior were identified as relevant in the homicides. 

Homicide Review Report Archive


Gina Brooks
Project coordinator
Community Violence Prevention Project
Homicide Review

Additional VPI affiliates

Faculty, staff, and students in the Departments of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences (Todd Bear, Lora Ann Bray, Jessica Burke, Patricia Documet) and Epidemiology (Andrea Arrington, Anthony Fabio).