May 13, 2021
STOP the Violence
News & Updates
The City of Pittsburgh STOP the Violence Office exists to change the community narrative about violence and stop the spread of the disease of violence in the City. While we are concerned as well with the surrounding areas and will share solutions and events in those areas, we only have jurisdiction in the City.

Table of Contents

  • Success Story: Vaughn Rivers, an inspiring story of a young man overcoming intense pain. An example of what's possible.
  • Solutions: Pittsburgh's My Brother's Keeper Community Violence Prevention Mini-Grant Opportunity, up to $3,000, deadline May 31
  • Are you aware: Mental Health Awareness Month, May 2021
  • Solutions: Pittsburgh's Student Police Academy, for teens interested in law enforcement. The deadline is June 18.
  • Solutions: STOP the Violence Prayer Team, Action Report: Northview Heights Prayer Walk-April 2021
  • Something You Can Do: Make The Pray It, Say It, Stop It Commitment to pray against violence
  • Media Coverage
  • Learning: Group Violence Intervention + and Conflict Resolution Training
  • Facts and Stats
  • Tips for You
  • Coming Events
  • Summer Youth Activities & Community Resources

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Special Training: A training on Recognizing and Responding to Hurt, Grief and Trauma will be conducted in-person on Saturday June 5 from 9:00 am to Noon. The location has not been determined. Enrollment is limited. If you're interested in attending or for additional information, please send an email HERE.

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Success Story:
Vaughn Rivers

Overcoming the Pain

From gifted athlete
to angry young man
to community healer & mentor

“After my very close cousin was murdered in 2006, my brother was senselessly murdered in 2008 and a close college teammate was murdered in 2009, I was a mess,” said Vaughn Rivers, 36, Reach Outreach Team Co-Coordinator and Violence Prevention Specialist, and Director of Personnel and Operations for the Hill District’s Center that Cares. “I was fully on ‘go’ all the time and all I could think about was retaliation. I hurt so bad and wanted to kill someone so other people would know the same pain I felt.” 

Growing Up. Rivers didn’t start out angry. “I grew up in Garfield and Stanton Hts. I started in a very small, two bedroom apartment with my father, mother, 2 brothers and sister. My father died when I was 6, but my mom kept us extremely tight and well cared for. As I got into middle school and high school I started spending most of my time in Beltzhoover at my brother’s house and with my cousins.” 
“My closest high school friends were in Homewood, but by going to Perry High School, I had ties to the Northside as well. With all of this moving around and exposure throughout my adolescent and teenage years, it really allowed me to make many friends and become accepted and develop relationships city-wide early on.”
Success in Athletics. “All my life I played sports, especially basketball and football, so coaches became my mentors. Eventually, I became a football star at Perry Traditional Academy (pictured, left).” The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said that Rivers: “Had 10 interceptions, including seven in the first three games, last season. Has shown versatility in scoring touchdowns by run, reception, interception, kickoff and punt returns and a fumble recovery in his career. Has a scholarship offer from West Virginia. Perry coach Bill Gallagher said “he has the heart of a lion and is relentless, and the other kids pick up on that and work harder. He has a goal. He's driven. Hopefully, it rubs off on everyone else. That's what separates him.”
While at West Virginia University on a football scholarship, Rivers continued to excel. He was named the Big East special teams player of the week in October 2006. He finished the 2007 season with 479 punt return yards, the most in a single-season in school history. “After graduating from WVU in 2007, I entered the NFL draft. Unfortunately, that season we lost our entire coaching staff, making it much harder for us to get properly evaluated by NFL teams, so I was not drafted. But, I was invited to an NFL open training camp in August with the Carolina Panthers."
Tragedy and Anger. “On August 5, 2008, my older brother Anthony Rivers (pictured left-Vaughn and Anthony), was robbed and then murdered on the streets of Garfield. I had seen him just one hour before. This sent me into a dangerous bout of anger and depression. This happened just before I was to make the trip to North Carolina, so I never made it to that tryout and pretty much ended my hopes of playing in the NFL.”
“The death of both my brother and cousin two years apart from each other changed me in ways I’m still just becoming aware of. These were, after my mother, the two closest human beings to me on this earth and to have them stripped from life, from any future, in such a violent and traumatic way took such a toll on my family and myself mentally, physically, and emotionally. I grew up playing every sport and experiencing every facet of life with those two. I had no ambition or passion in playing the game anymore after they left this earth.”
Personal Healing.  “Anyone who goes through these devastating experiences MUST get help from someone. Fortunately for me, my older brother, Jason Rivers (pictured, right), was in my life every day, letting me cry and spaz out and be angry. The one thing he would not do was let me leave the house with a gun. He constantly had to talk me off the edge. He was my therapist. Without his help, there’s no doubt that I would have done something stupid and ended up dead or in jail.”
“After three years of extreme mental health problems and pain starting in 2006, I decided to go on with life and try football one more time. In 2009, I played professionally with the Wheeling Wildcats indoor football team in Wheeling, WV. After that, I found a new passion in training and coaching other athletes. This was satisfying to me because I was now healthy and able to give back again!”
Community Healing and Violence Prevention. In his current roles with Reach (pictured, right, with Co-Director Antoine Bailey) and the Center that CARES, Rivers spends his time mentoring, coaching, leading, directing and helping youth so they have a chance to live full and productive lives. “Because of my past experiences, I can recognize pain and know how to help youth and young adults overcome it.” For additional information on the Reach outreach team, click HERE.

“What makes a difference is reaching people where they’re at. Perhaps catching someone when they’re ready to make a drug deal or you know he has a gun on him that he shouldn’t have or he’s smoking weed with his boys. If I can just step in at that moment and have a talk, ask why he’s doing what he’s doing. Why do you think that you only have value to sell drugs, why do you think that you should be smoking as a teenager? I have to find out why he thinks this behavior is acceptable. Often it’s because nobody he respected said it wasn’t right. Maybe he’s carrying a gun because he found it in his uncle’s house and the uncle just went to jail and nobody said not to carry it around. I’ve seen these things.”
How mentoring can help. Mentoring can help young people deal with the stresses and pain that can lead to violence. Rivers provided one example: "A young man on my football team was playing at an out-of-town tournament. On the first day he gets pushed out of bounds, then took a swing at the opposing player and got kicked out of the tournament. I thought I noticed some anger issues below the surface. We talked briefly and I mentioned how my own anger issues kept me from going to a national all-star game and that I would give anything to go back and control my temper. In the middle of me sharing my story, the kid broke down in tears, so I knew that he was going through something deeper." 

"After we returned home, he got my phone number from another coach and called me. We ended up talking for close to an hour and he shared his struggles, how he was ready to give up on life. I’m now talking to him weekly and he’s close to earning scholarships in baseball and football to major universities. He could have given up on life, kept having a bad relationship with his parents and could have easily turned to the streets and towards violence. He could have thought that ‘since nobody cares about me, I can just ride around with these street guys who are doing things that I think I might like, but don’t really want.’”

Rivers “truly has a heart for the community. I see how he helps everyone from the athletes that he is mentoring to families that have been affected by street violence. He’s a great asset to the City,” said Cornell Jones (pictured, right), the Coordinator of the City’s Group Violence Intervention initiative.
Recent mentoring. “Lots of the kids I work with are doing great and have bright futures." Rivers recently took 25 talented high school athletes from across southwestern Pennsylvania on a trip to compete in a national football tournament and tour the University of Florida and Central Florida University for potential athletic scholarships. At least 10 players received scholarships.

Here are a few of the athletes Rivers has recently mentored:
Jaquan Brisker, a Gateway grad and rising senior at Penn State University and high draft prospect for the 2022 NFL draft.
Paris “Diddy” Ford, who grew up in Garfield, went to Pitt and was just selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL draft.
Kenny Robinson, a Pittsburgh University Prep High School and WVU graduate now playing for the Carolina Panthers.
How YOU can help. First, you can recognize the signs and encourage hurt people to get help. If you're unaware of resources, call the Center for Victims hotline (see number, right) or Darnell Drewery at the Center for Victims at 1-412-758-9237 or or contact
Dr. Staci Ford (pictured, left) , In-School Coordinator for the Neighborhood Resilience Project’s Trauma Response Team at or 1-412-261-1234 ext. 126.

Second, anyone can get involved and be a mentor. According to Rivers, “our kids need to hear success stories from people in all walks of life – barbers, truck drivers, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, etc. Just have a casual conversation about your career. That’s what kids are missing. If you’ve never seen someone go downtown every day in a BMW and wearing a suit, how would you ever think it’s possible for you to do that? The cure is being able to communicate. Share the resources you have. Share your story. And give your time to listen. They start to believe that there’s someone they can trust. Just be transparent. The relationship is the key factor, it’s everything.” 

Finally, you can support groups, programs, churches and anyone else that has relationships with individuals that could be hurting and suffering from trauma. 

For more information or to share your story, please contact Vaughn Rivers at He can connect you with opportunities with the Center that Cares, the AR3 Basketball League (named after Vaughn’s deceased brother), and other projects that need support.
Pittsburgh’s My Brother's Keeper
Community Violence Prevention Mini-Grant Opportunity

PITTSBURGH, PA (May 11, 2021) The City of Pittsburgh’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative has announced a new violence prevention and intervention mini-grant program for community organizations focused on reducing violence and peacemaking efforts throughout the city.  

The mini-grant program is offering up to $3,000 in funding to organizations that support neighborhood-centric violence prevention, intervention and street outreach activity that communities have called for and in response to a recent surge in violence.  

“We know that there are many community partners working in the violence reduction and prevention space in Pittsburgh,” said Chief Equity Officer Majestic Lane. “The City’s Office of Equity, MBK and Group Violence Intervention team work closely with these groups because they are critical community-based resources throughout our city. We also know that up to $3,000 can go a long way to uplift and further their initiatives and activities that make a difference for our neighborhoods.”  

“A public health approach, Group Violence Intervention work and trained street outreach have been effective in reducing violence and building peace,” said Josiah Gilliam, My Brother's Keeper Coordinator. “It's our hope to support activities, programs and other opportunities at the community level while also better connecting and highlighting these efforts in the hopes to save lives and improve outcomes.” 

MBK will fund the mini-grants with support from the Heinz Endowments. Applications are available online until May 31 and will be managed and processed by the POISE Foundation. Applicants are required to have 501(c)(3) status or a fiscal sponsor to apply. 
Pittsburgh Student Police Academy (SPA)
Starts June 22, 2021
The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police sponsors an opportunity for High School students from any school district to become closely acquainted with the roles and responsibilities of the Police Bureau. The Student Police Academy brings police and high school students closer together in a setting that offers a sample of police training to each participant.
Applications are being accepted for the summer session of the Student Police Academy (SPA) until Friday, June 18, 2021.  The academy is open to all interested rising high school students in grades 9-12, whether they live inside or outside of the City of Pittsburgh.
Classes will be taught virtually from 6:00 to 8:00 pm starting Tuesday, June 22, 2021 via Microsoft TEAMS. The SPA meets weekly for 8 weeks. The academy exposes students to some of the experiences they might have just as if they were cadets training at the Pittsburgh Police Academy to be police officers.  

According to John Tokarski, SaferTogether Coordinator and facilitator of the SPA: “a student who enrolls in our academy should expect to leave with at least three wonderful experiences!

“First, students will better understand the breadth of education, understanding of policy and
Above: Graduation day from a previous
Student Police Academy
importance of relevant statues that factor in the various decisions that police officers must make on a daily basis...often within a split second.
“Second, teens will have a forum to meet and get to know police officers from our Police Bureau's various divisions (uniform, detectives, bomb squad, S.W.A.T., vice & narcotics, K-9, etc.) simply as human beings...and vice-versa!
“Finally, it will expose students to potential careers in criminal justice and/or as first responders. Those careers could be with the Pittsburgh Police, or in a county, state or federal law enforcement agency or any other of the many other areas of criminal justice, including forensic science, law, and others.”

The Application form and Permission Slip (pictured below) can be found HERE.
Please direct any questions to John Tokarski at 412-432-8674 or
Are You Aware?
The City of Pittsburgh, through its STOP the Violence Trust Fund, Office of Community Services and Violence Prevention and Office of Community Health and Safety, is undertaking many innovative initiatives to address some of the issues described above. For more information, please send an email HERE.
STOP the Violence Prayer Team
Action Report: Northview Heights Prayer Walk-April 2021
On April 25, 2021, members of the STOP the Violence Prayer Team joined 35 to 40 other concerned people in a prayer walk through Northview Heights, the location of several recent violent incidents. 

According to Suzie Salo, a member of Eastminster Presbyterian Church in East Liberty, an intentionally cross- cultural church, “it was great. There were 15-20 people in our group, so we split into smaller groups and walked the area, praying as we were led by the Spirit. We also prayed individually with a woman at a bus stop, an immigrant woman with 4 children, 2 children starting school the next day and 2 teen girls. We met back at the corner and sang praise songs (as a weapon against dark and evil in the area.)”
Suzie Salo
“It was good to be with and pray with people from various churches: Mosaic (Northside), Allegheny Center Alliance Church (Northside), Eastminster, Deliverance Center Original Church of God (Manchester), a church in Homewood, and many others. Several women were from the neighborhood and Loleda grew up there. Joining Brothers and Sisters in prayer and praise makes it great.” 

“It was nothing short of AMAZING!” said Loleda Moman, walk organizer, who grew up in Northview Heights. “I felt the leading of the Holy Spirit to organize this walk.  The heaviness of the violence burdens my heart and as a praying woman of God, I sought His face with a heavy heart." 
Moman also said “I see prayer walks as a way to build relationships within communities and bring awareness of community needs, especially for families and children, to more people so those needs can be met. Walks also take church members out of their church buildings and into the community which builds the faith of church members and may encourage others to get involved as well.”
Loleda Moman
For questions related to future prayer walks, please click HERE to send Loleda an email or call 412-532-8652.

According to Moman, "as a Pittsburgh native, wife, mom and a servant of the Lord, it’s important that we gather in unity in Christ name with His power to fight this evil that we all grieve daily.” 

The Prayer Team was announced in the February STOP the Violence Newsletter (which can be found HERE) and now has over 50 participants. 

The STOP the Violence Prayer Team needs you. If you can help in any way, or want more information for yourself or your house of worship, please send us an email by clicking HERE.

A training on Recognizing and Responding to Hurt, Grief and Trauma will be conducted in-person on Saturday June 5 from 9:00 am to Noon. The location has not been determined. Attendance is limited. For details, please send an email by clicking HERE.
Something You Can Do:

Make the Pray It, Say It, Stop It Commitment
Violence takes many forms -- guns, knives, fists, even words on social media. Some violence is far away, like the mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder. Other violence is close to home, like violence in the streets and violence in households.
Psalm 11:5 in the Contemporary English Version of the Bible, states: “The LORD tests honest people, but despises those who are cruel and love violence.” While the causes of violence are many and the solutions may vary, you can take the first step by praying against violence.
The STOP the Violence Office is encouraging prayers against violence at every opportunity during 2021. 
Can you make the Pray It, Say It, Stop It Commitment and pledge to name the problem of violence every time you pray this year? If you can make the commitment, just let us know by completing the poll below.
Your prayers can be part of the solution. Let’s Pray It, Say It, Stop It.
I will agree to the Pray It, Say It, Stop It Commitment:
Yes! I will pray myself and/or with my family and/or house of worship
No. I can't at this time
Media Coverage:

Black Pittsburgh Matters Will Feature
STOP the Violence Office on Wednesday, May 26 @ 6:00 pm

The Black Pittsburgh Matters television show hosted by City Councilmen Reverend Ricky Burgess and Daniel Lavelle can be seen on the City's YouTube Channel and live on the Black Pittsburgh Matters Facebook page.
Past Programs:

March 31, 2021

This program discussed Protecting Black Women: Domestic Violence in the Black Community The program can be seen on the City's YouTube Channel and live on the Black Pittsburgh Matters Facebook page.

Guests were Lavonnie Bickerstaff, Assistant Chief of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Dr. Staci Ford, trauma therapist, Rhonda Fleming, Director of Education and Outreach for the Women's Center & Shelter, George Fleming, Program Supervisor & Outreach Specialist for Allegheny Family Network’s Fathers Involved Now Program and Jay Gilmer, STOP the Violence Coordinator for the City of Pittsburgh.

This topic affects people everywhere, is not well understood by the general public and is something that everyone needs to know more about so they can protect themselves, their family members and their community.

The program can be seen on the City's YouTube Channel and on the Black Pittsburgh Matters Facebook page or you can see it by clicking below. Please take a look:
MARCH 24, 2021

The March 24, 2021 Black Pittsburgh Matters television show discussed Mental Health and Violence in Black Pittsburgh: How to Heal. Guests were Cornell Jones, GVI Coordinator, Antoine Bailey and Vaughn Rivers from the Reach Outreach team, Geraldine Massey and Vanessa Mayers-Snyder from the Center For Victims and Jay Gilmer, STOP the Violence Coordinator for the City of Pittsburgh.

The program can be seen on the City's YouTube Channel and on the Black Pittsburgh Matters Facebook page or you can see it by clicking below. Please take a look:
January 27, 2021

The STOP the Violence Office was featured on the January 27, 2021 edition of the Black Pittsburgh Matters television show. Guests were Jay Gilmer, STOP the Violence Coordinator for the Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety, Von Madden, President/CEO of Shadow Student Athlete Development Services and member of the Group Violence Intervention Reach Outreach team, Valerie Dixon, Director of Family and Community Support at the Center for Victims and a member of the Group Violence Intervention Pittsburgh Outreach team, and Laura Drogowski, Critical Communities Manager for the City of Pittsburgh.
Click on the picture above to see the entire television show.
Group Violence Intervention +
Group Violence Intervention (GVI) is a strategy to reduce shootings and homicides in urban neighborhoods by using a three pronged strategy:

  • law enforcement in partnership with the community,
  • informed street outreach and social services to prevent violence, and
  • involved community members reinforcing community norms rejecting violence.

For additional information on GVI, including its history and rationale, see this hour-long webinar from Mayors Against Illegal Guns entitled Re-imagining Public Safety: Group Violence Intervention and Intimate Partner Intervention: Webinar. The password is: MAIGUn1versity!

Pittsburgh’s Group Violence Intervention (GVI) violence prevention strategy was featured in the October STOP the Violence Newsletter which can be accessed HERE. The non-law enforcement elements of GVI are coordinated by Rev. Cornell Jones who can be contacted at
Conflict Resolution Training

If you would like more information on violence prevention and some suggestions on ways to be involved with anti-violence activities, please click on and watch the two-hour training video to the right.

Our outreach teams include violence interrupters, but there are lots of other roles to play. After viewing the training video, please let us know your thoughts and how you'd like to be involved!
Facts & Stats:

Below are selected crime statistics from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. These statistics are from the period January 1 to April 30, 2021. These only cover the City, not the areas of Allegheny County which are outside of the City.

A few statistics of note: Homicides and non-fatal shooting incidents are at very high levels. April was far worse than the preceding months this year. Changing these statistics will take the combined efforts of all of us.

Each life is too valuable and our communities are poorer as a result. Preventing violence will take all of us. We need to speak out, offer alternatives, and make sure that our family members and friends know that we will do anything to keep them safe and that gun violence is not an acceptable way to settle any dispute.

If you are interested in working to change these negative statistics, please click HERE to contact the STOP the Violence Office.

What will you do to help?
City of Pittsburgh Police Zones

Tip for You:

Relationship Advice: Be careful when you date a person with a violent past. Before getting into a serious relationship or spending too much time, make sure that person has received help for and overcome the causes of the violence.

That always means taking responsibility for their actions, no blaming or excuses. It may also mean that professional counseling has been obtained and completed.

If you are not careful, you could be the next victim. And look out for your friends who might be ignoring signs of potential trouble.

Domestic Violence Help:

Violence is not an acceptable method to resolve issues between friends or partners. If there are threats, please seek help!

When in danger, call 911 immediately.

Some other resources are in the Domestic Violence Resource Guide is reproduced below and can be accessed HERE.

Do You Have Any Ideas?

The Stop the Violence Newsletter is produced monthly by Jay Gilmer, Coordinator of the STOP the Violence Office of the City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety.

Please send any ideas, notices or suggestions to: STOP the Violence Office.
April Survey Responses

How much more informed about violence issues are you since receiving the STOP the Violence Newsletter?

  • Much More Informed 57%
  • A bit more informed 29%
  • No more informed 14%

Thank you for responding.

What can you do?
Previous Newsletters

Click on the dates below to find past issues of the City of Pittsburgh STOP the Violence Newsletter:

Coming Events

If you are aware of an anti-violence event that is open to the public, please click HERE to send us a notice or announcement. Thank you.
Summer Youth Activities &
Community Resources

If you are aware of an resource that can contribute to violence prevention or reducing the impact of violence, please click HERE to send us a notice or announcement. Thank you.
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