Two years ago, the Illinois legislature slashed funding for Cure Violence, a neighborhood-level violence-intervention program in Chicago that some researchers and community leaders had credited with easing tensions between rival gangs, and helping slow the spate of deadly shootings. Just a handful of “violence interrupters” still are on patrol in the city, even as violent crime has soared, reports The Trace. Eight hundred miles to the east, New York City’s Cure Violence chapter, which is four years old, is expanding to cover 17 police precincts, up from just four in 2012. It’s budget increased to $27 million this year, up from $23.5 million last year. While Chicago police ended their formal relationship with Cure Violence in 2012, New York police continue to work closely with the group.
“We use every tool at our disposal,” said Eric Cumberbatch of the Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence. This includes “wrap around” strategies to help people move away from violent lifestyles. When needed, Cure Violence workers can steer people to legal and mental health services. They can also communicate with local schools about dangerous situations, and providing job training. Violence interrupters also support youthful offenders when they emerge from juvenile detention centers, to help them make good decisions and avoid getting sucked back into a violent situation. One of the New York program’s recent success stories is the near-total elimination of gun violence at the Queensbridge Houses, the nation’s largest public housing development, once a hub of criminal activity. On January 16, almost a year after violence interrupters were dispatched to the 96-building development, it celebrated 365 days without a shooting. Jeffrey Butts of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who is researching Cure Violence, said a different relationship develops in each city between police, outreach workers, and the community. He said that in New York a culture of respect has developed slowly, and now works well.