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New program to reduce youth violence launches in Aurora

The city of Aurora identifies specific social groups of kids in the highest risk of getting into trouble. Outreach workers meet the teens and their families.

AURORA, Colo. — The city of Aurora is launching a new program to reduce youth violence that focuses on community groups at highest risk for getting into trouble – with the goal to keep young people alive, safe and free. 

The program, Standing Against Violence Every Day, or SAVE, will use a strategy called Group Violence Intervention, which the city said has worked in other cities across the country. 

The Aurora Police Department, Youth Violence Prevention Program and community partners will collaborate together in the program. 

A GVI strategy is focused on social groups at highest risk for violent victimization or offending. It's designed to reduce homicides and non-fatal shootings. 

"We would see offenders typically in the 18 to 19 to early 20s age predominantly," said Aurora Division Chief Mark Hildebrend. "What we are seeing now is those ages go down all the way to 12, 13 years of age."

Hildebrend said SAVE will identify the social groups and the influential members of those groups. 

"We identify those individuals, and we do outreach to those individuals in the form of custom notification," he said. 

Law enforcement, YVPP and outreach workers plan to meet the teens and their families in person to offer resources. 

"The services could range from mental health resources, to maybe housing resources, food resources, or maybe resources to help participate in school more," said Joseph DeHerrera, manager of YVPP. 

DeHerrera said it's important to offer resources to give young people an alternative and put them on a different path. 

"We don't want them involved in the criminal justice system, and we want them to be productive members of society," DeHerrera said. 

SAVE also plans to call members in to meet with key stakeholders like the district attorney and Aurora chief of police so they can provide a message to the group. 

"What the repercussions of continuing on this pathway are," said Hildebrend. "We will even have influential members of the community that have been impacted by violent crime, and connect with these individuals about the dangers of continuing on this pathway."

The National Network for Safe Communities helps partners in communities and police to develop and implement the GVI strategy. The group recently conducted an analysis for Aurora and found 36% of homicides between 2022 and 2023 involved social group members as suspects, victims or both. 

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