LA expands countywide program that treats community violence as a public health crisis

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In the midst of National Public Health Week, Los Angeles city officials expanded a countywide program Wednesday that provides solutions for community violence, and treats the issue as a public health crisis.

The county's fight to end the cycle of violence plaguing so many communities got a boost from the Office of Violence Prevention's Trauma Prevention Initiative.

The measure now going countywide, aims at addressing violence as a public health challenge.

"Violence is often the result of trauma and the leading cause of trauma, and preventing and healing trauma allows us to stop what often seems like a never-ending cycle of violence," Director of L.A. County Public Health Dr. Barbara Ferrer said.

Center of Disease Control data shows in California, homicides account for a little over one-third of the more than 6,000 violence-related deaths in 2020, suicide makes up almost two-thirds.

Of the 3,000 plus gun deaths in 2020, 50% were homicides and 45% were suicides.

"Public safety and public health, the two are inseparable," L.A. District Attorney George Gascón said. "You cannot have safety without being able to use the public health lens to do the work."

RELATED: LA sees 12% spike in homicides: 'Los Angeles is not alone in this trend,' Mayor Garcetti says
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Los Angeles saw spikes in select categories of crime in 2021, most notably a nearly 12% year-over-year climb in homicides, but the mayor and police chief said redeployments of officers and a focus on getting guns off the streets are preventing the numbers from soaring much higher.

Gascón says the other key is overhauling the justice system and mass incarceration, which he says only feeds the trauma and violence.

Ferrer says just like COVID-19, violence is a critical public health issue that needs immediate attention.

"We believe violence is preventable and predictable, and we know that we need to center upstream solutions to violence and trauma," Ferrer said.

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