by Mateja Mihinjac
In last week’s blog about Syracuse we introduced the Cure Violence program. We initially introduced Cure Violence seven years ago in our review of the film The Interrupters. Since then the program has expanded considerably.
Cure Violence is a public health approach to violence prevention, targeting at-risk youth to prevent shootings. Its founder, Gary Slutkin, sees violence as a contagious disease problem where violent behavior spreads from person to person as an epidemic with individuals adopting behaviors they observe in their social circles. Cure violence focuses on prevention through interrupting violent behavior and change through treatment and education.
The program shares the same vision as SafeGrowth - building capacity in neighborhoods to interrupt violence within neighborhoods themselves. However, whereas SafeGrowth focuses on a proactive way to plan long-term neighborhood development, the Cure Violence program responds to violence that has already erupted, or is about to erupt.
REPLACING PRISONS WITH PLAYGROUNDS
Slutkin envisions neighborhoods where prisons would be replaced with playgrounds and parks. This vision - reported in the Syracuse projects we discussed in our last blog - helps neighborhoods struggling with high levels of violence. That includes the Near Westside neighborhood in Syracuse.
Cure Violence relies on trained “violence interrupters”, individuals who, due to a similar history of criminality or gang membership, have credibility among the targeted groups.
The model is based on 3 components:
- Interrupt transmission – violence interrupters detect and mediate conflicts to reduce likelihood of violent outbursts or retaliation
- Identify and treat highest risk to prevent future spread – interrupters assess and refer individuals at high risk of engaging in violence to appropriate social services
- Change group norms – engage and organize community leaders, residents, local organizations and service providers and use outreach and education to denormalize violence.
RESEARCH ON SUCCESS
Evaluation studies support the effectiveness of this approach. In Chicago, for example, the 2009 study reported a 41-73% reduction in shootings across intervention neighborhoods and a 56% decrease in killings in Baltimore.
In NYC, the most recent evaluation reported 27-50% reduction in gun injuries in two NYC communities and 63% reduction in shootings in one community while attitudes supporting violence have decreased and confidence in police increased.
Previous research also reported an 18% decrease in homicide across Cure Violence locations between 2010 and 2013 and 69% in non-targeted locations since the program was first implemented in NYC in 2009.
Cure Violence has to date been implemented in 10 countries across over 25 cities. These include Western cities as well as regions with high levels of violence in South America, Africa, Middle East and zones of conflict such as Iraq and Syria. This year Cure Violence also celebrated a jump in 10th place of the Top 500 NGOs in the world.
The Cure Violence model, therefore, holds a great promise to help reduce violence and victimization from gun violence in cities like Syracuse.