The Issue: Violence Creating Unsafe Neighborhoods
After witnessing his own father's murder, Cardale Walker almost fell victim to the same fate after joining a New York City gang. Instead, he served 13 years in jail, where he decided to break the cycle of violence, eventually returning to his Yonkers neighborhood to help stem an overwhelming tide of shootings there.
Unfortunately, Walker and others working against violence have their work cut out for them. There were 419 homicides in New York City in 2012, according to data from the NYPD. Chicago, too, has experienced a scourge of shootings, suffering a total of 506 homicides in 2012, according to an article from the Chicago Tribune. Often, these shootings are the result of retaliatory violence between individuals, which creates an unending cycle of homicides and injuries.
In New York City, Chicago, and many other cities around the nation, former perpetrators of violence such as Walker are now working with Cure Violence organizations to mediate shootings before they happen. This strategy of violence mediation, also known as violence interruption, has proven effective not only in Chicago, where an independent evaluation found that it reduced shootings by up to 34.5% in some neighborhoods, but also in Baltimore, where a Johns Hopkins study found it reduced fatal shootings by as much as 56%.
The Campaign: Training New Violence Mediators
All donations to this Grassroots campaign will be used by Cure Violence to train new Violence Interrupters and Outreach Workers to help make neighborhoods safer. For every $700 raised, Cure Violence can conduct one day of violence-interruption and outreach training in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, New Orleans, Chicago, or other US cities to a group of 20. Donations will cover the cost of travel, materials, and other expenses.
New Violence Interrupters and Outreach Workers initially go through five days of training, followed by booster sessions throughout their employment. While in the community, Violence Interrupters listen for and mediate potential conflicts, while Outreach Workers target high-risk individuals before they can commit or fall victim to a crime.
In 2011 The Interrupters documentary introduced audiences to three Chicagoans whose job it was to walk the streets of their neighborhoods mediating violent disputes. They were part of CeaseFire—Chicago's Cure Violence program—working with other Violence Interrupters to mediate potentially lethal conflicts in the city. In 2013, CeaseFire workers mediated nearly 700 high-risk conflicts, often by physically standing between feuding individuals, putting their lives at risk to make their communities safer.
In addition to its work in Chicago, Cure Violence operates programs in five other Illinois cities and 22 cities across the US, and across four countries. The organization's founder, Dr. Gary Slutkin, is an epidemiologist who approaches violence as an infectious disease that should be treated like any other—with scientifically proven methods. Those include detection, intervention, and behavior modification, combined to alter a community's perspective of violence and stop the problem at its source.
Within violence-plagued neighborhoods, the organization's Violence Interrupters—often former violence perpetrators—detect and mediate potentially lethal conflicts. Outreach Workers, meanwhile, work with high-risk individuals to change the way they think about violence and help them improve their lives within the system. On a larger scale, Cure Violence shifts the discourse within whole communities and society at large, emphasizing a health approach to violence instead of punishment.