Community Violence Prevention

Community violence takes lives and leaves a lasting legacy of trauma. It must be prevented.

Homicides and other violent acts are causing substantial harm in communities across the country, especially in racially segregated and high-poverty neighborhoods. The physical, emotional, and financial pain from violence cascades from individuals to their families and communities, including children.

Community violence is a critical public health problem in the United States.

Rates of some violence types are increasing

Community violence happens between unrelated individuals, who may or may not know each other, generally outside the home. Examples include youth violence, such as assaults or fights among groups, and shootings in public places, such as schools and on the streets.

Homicide rates are increasing. In the last year, homicide rates increased in many areas of the nation. Data show significant increases in homicide rates in 2020 compared to 2019.

Violence affects us all

Each year in the United States:

About 19,000 lives are lost to homicide, including about 14,000 firearm-related homicide

More than 1.5 million people are treated in emergency departments for assaults

Community violence affects millions of people, and their families, schools, and communities every year.  

Community violence can cause significant physical injuries and mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Living in a community experiencing violence is also associated with increases in risk of developing chronic diseases, as concerns about violence may prevent someone from engaging in healthy behaviors, such as walking, bicycling, using parks and recreational spaces, and accessing healthy food outlets.  Violence scares people out of participating in neighborhood activities; limits business growth and prosperity; strains education, justice, and medical systems; and slows community progress.

America’s youth are especially vulnerable to community violence

Violence is a leading cause of death and nonfatal injuries among adolescents and young adults – over half of US homicides in 2019 occurred among those ages 15 to 34. Young people are disproportionately impacted by violence in their communities, including firearm injuries and deaths.

Youth can be victims, perpetrators, or witnesses of violence. People with multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including exposure to violence, are more likely to have short-term and chronic physical and mental health conditions and behavioral difficulties.

Some populations experience more violence

People’s health outcomes are influenced by the conditions in which they live, work, play, and learn. These conditions are called social determinants of health. Systemic racism, bias, and discrimination; economic instability; concentrated poverty; and limited housing, education, and healthcare access drive health inequities, such as violence.

Communities of color often disproportionately experience these negative conditions, placing residents at greater risk for poor health outcomes. For example, Black or African American, American Indian, and Alaskan Native, and Hispanic or Latino persons have higher homicide rates than other racial and ethnic demographic groups.

We can prevent community violence

Community violence is preventable, and the Division of Violence Prevention (DVP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is uniquely positioned for this work.

DVP was the first government group to apply a public health model to violence prevention. We are widely implementing science-based programs, policies, and practices with partners and communities to disseminate, implement, and scale-up strategies based on the best available evidence to create safer communities, such as:

  • Changing social norms through street outreach/violence interruption programs such as Baltimore’s SafeStreetsexternal icon and CureViolenceexternal icon.
  • Changing the physical environment through Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).
  • Preventing future risk and lessening the harms of violence exposure through hospital-community partnerships, and treatment services such as Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy ®(TF-CBT) and Multisystemic Therapy® (MST).
  • Strengthening economic supports through job training and summer jobs programs.
  • Connecting youth to caring adults and activities such as mentoring and after-school programs.
  • Strengthening youth’s skills through universal school-based programs to help youth develop skills to prevent violence and engage in healthy behaviors.

DVP has the experts, knowledge, vision, strategy, and solutions to stop violence before it starts.

Technical Package
technical package youth violence cover

See the best available evidence for community violence prevention in the Youth Violence Prevention Technical Package pdf icon[4.09 MB, 64 Pages]

This technical package represents a select group of strategies based on the best available evidence to help communities and states sharpen their focus on prevention activities with the greatest potential to prevent youth violence and its consequences. Also available in Spanish pdf icon[3.89 MB, 68 Pages, 508]

Page last reviewed: October 18, 2021