Milwaukee is investing in an experiment that St. Louis is about to start aiming to prevent violence before it happens. Milwaukee contracted with a national program called Cure Violence, based in Chicago, to hire and train residents in crisis intervention, betting that locals can better dissuade would-be shooters than cops or coroners, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Milwaukee’s 414LIFE program started in November 2018. The city invested $480,000; nonprofits donated the rest of the $600,000 budget, which pays salaries of 10 field workers, or “interrupters,” and one director. They focus on two crime-prone neighborhoods but try to respond in some way to shootings citywide. The interest started in 2015, when Milwaukee saw a spike in homicides. “The community rightfully asked what the hell are we doing about this,” said Reggie Moore of the Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention.
St. Louis, after a violent summer that has seen 13 children shot and killed, is on the edge of starting its own Cure Violence program. Aldermen voted Friday to greenlight $5 million for Cure Violence. In Milwaukee, some residents say the shootings continue. Research has been mixed. “I’m a big fan. I think it’s a very valuable asset for a community to have,” said Jeffrey Butts of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who has observed Cure Violence in New York, New Orleans and Philadelphia. “But it’s definitely possible to do it poorly.” In Baltimore, a 2018 study resulted in three of seen sites shutting down after disappointing results. Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health cautioned that Cure Violence has limitations. Other, longer-term services should be offered to ensure success, he said. He believes working with police — interrupters in Milwaukee don’t — can benefit the program’s effectiveness. In Milwaukee, 414LIFE says interrupters have stopped 66 conflicts. Homicides have dropped 15 percent and non-fatal shootings 21 percent, year-to-date.