Checking in on Austin’s Office of Violence Prevention

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Tuesday morning news conference focused on tackling local gun violence also offered a look inside Austin Public Health’s new Office of Violence Prevention.

After the event, the program’s director, Michelle Myles, told KXAN roughly six months after the office was established, her team is currently “looking at data and listening to the community” in order to take a public health approach to the issue.

“We’re trying to get to violence before it becomes critical and APD or the DA’s office has to get involved,” she said.

Myles added the office — which now has a liaison from Travis County — views gun violence as a preventive “disease” that can be avoided through things like drug treatment, and support for victims of violence or abuse who may be likely to turn around and harm others.

“Hurt people hurt other people,” said Austin City Council Member Alison Alter, who spearheaded the office. “So, you try to get to those folks, when they’re victims of gun violence and they’re at the hospital, etc., and provide them other tools for addressing conflict.”

Myles said her team looked at what has worked in other cities, including Baltimore, Milwaukee, San Antonio, and Louisville.

The office has also contracted with a professor from the University of Chicago Crime Lab to develop training for community members and agencies to serve as citizen “boots on the ground” in at-risk neighborhoods. Myles said she hopes to have a solicitation in place by January.

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