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Mayor Keller Introduces Leaders of Violence Intervention Program

Aug. 18, 2020

Mayor Tim Keller today introduced the new leaders who are building the Violence Intervention Program. The program, initially announced late last year, focuses on identifying and engaging with the drivers of violent crime in order to reduce violent crime, and especially gun violence, among young people.

“The importance of this partnership cannot be overstated, especially during this climate of distrust,” Mayor Keller said. “We need vulnerable communities and law enforcement to begin to see each other in different ways. VIP will help find crucial common ground, build new relationships, and significantly reduce gun crime in their neighborhoods.”

VIP is an innovative and evidence-based social service programs that aim to break the intergenerational cycle of violence. VIP has five components:

  • Analysis of violent crimes and trends
  • Respectful, in-person communication with high-risk individuals
  • Relationship-based social services for high-risk individuals
  • Narrowly focused law enforcement actions
  • Intentional management and partnership with prosecutors and other law enforcement agencies

Mayor Keller introduced the following leaders who will run the program:

  • Gerri Bachicha, VIP Program Manager
  • Angel Garcia, VIP Social Services Coordinator
  • Tonya Covington, RAD Program Manager
  • Commander Luke Languit, Violent Crimes Reduction Division

Bachicha said the idea is to use enforcement strategically, while addressing the underlying issues that lead to gun violence.

“VIP’s focus will be targeted to a small but very high-risk population that drives violent gun crime in Albuquerque,” Bachicha said. “The drivers of all gun violence in Albuquerque have been determined through data to be a very small percentage of Albuquerque’s population. This data driven program identifies the drivers of violence in our community, and works on several levels to reduce the risk of those drivers being involved in any further gun crimes.”

Covington, whose career has been devoted to restorative justice, will oversee the Rapid Accountability Division program, which his part of VIP. RAD will initially address underage drinking and youth gun violence intervention.

“Young people who make bad choices around alcohol and parties do not need to be swept up into the cycle of the criminal justice system,” Covington said. “If we can reach them, help them understand the consequences of their actions, and give them basic skills like de-escalation, we can improve outcomes for them while reducing crime. RAD Programs will be developed with community input, will be held in the community and trained community volunteers will participate in the Restorative Justice programs.”

APD Commander Luke Languit, who oversees the Violent Crime Reduction Division, said officers are already using an approach called custom notifications to reach out to individuals who are involved with gun violence. At the same time, police continue tailored enforcement actions that target the drivers of violent crime.

“The majority of these individuals have been open and willing to participate in the VIP program,” Languit said. “Many of the people we have met with want to be connected to drug addiction help, counseling and other services. At the same time we let these folks know that if they do not change their pattern of conduct, they are on our radar screen, and we will be there if they choose to break the law again.”

“We are focusing our efforts on both enforcement and interventions in an effort to reduce gun violence,” stated Deputy Chief Arturo Gonzalez, who oversees APD’s VIP operations. “The message is clear that we need the gun violence to stop, we are up front with what the penalties and criminal sanctions will be if they continue to commit violence and pick up a gun, and now for the first time, we are offering social services to assist them so they do not have to resort to gun violence.”

Video available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/12ADIoCgRjLu-ueIptkrYbs9XeV9UlNFK/view?usp=sharing