’Hurst Civic Institute tackles Erie gun violence

Lauren Murphy, Staff writer

Recently, the director of the Mercyhurst Civic Institute, Amy Eisert, took a group of twenty people to Kansas City to learn more about the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, KC NoVA, in order to implement their strategies in Erie through Unified Erie.

By implementing KC NoVA’s strategies, Unified Erie hopes to reduce gun violence in Erie. The strategy consists of two parts and starts with a social network analysis.

“The social network analysis is created through official arrest data from the police, not by word of mouth,” Eisert said.

The social network analysis is used to find criminals involved in violent crimes and their connections. From these connections, the most connected individuals are invited to a meeting called a “Call In Meeting.”

In the first part of the meeting, the invitees are told that violence will not be tolerated. They are shown surveillance and are told that after the meeting, the first group to be involved in violence will receive the full attention of law enforcement.

In the second part of the meeting, the invitees are told that they have value and the leaders of the meeting offer support to them. Support such as housing, education and drug and alcohol help are offered as well. Victims’ family members and rehabilitated criminals talk about their experiences. After the meeting, a dinner is provided where the invitees get to sit down with public officials and talk to them face-to-face.

“The Call In Meeting is like a messenger meeting, and we hope that by inviting the most connected individuals, they will go out and spread the word,” Eisert said.

A major goal of implementing this strategy is to increase positive relations between the community and the police.“We are currently pursuing funding to hire case managers,” Eisert said.
Case managers will be used to direct individuals who seek help after going to or hearing about the meeting to the proper services and agencies that they need. The community programs that will be utilized in this strategy are the ones that Erie already has set up—drug and alcohol help as well as education and housing.

“The system can sometimes be very hard to navigate to find the right help, but the case managers will make this step in the process much more doable for those in need,” Eisert said.

Eisert first learned about this strategy at a conference at Michigan State University. She relayed the information to Unified Erie and they decided it was worth using to reduce gun violence in Erie.

Eisert has worked for Unified Erie since 2010, when it was first established.