Podcast — Are violence interrupters more effective than police?

Gun violence is a massive problem in American communities. And after decades of failed policies, some community members are taking matters in their own hands and working as violence interrupters. In this episode of Beyond Black History Month, we meet members of Save Our Streets, or SOS. We find out how some of the same people who once caused neighborhood violence are dedicating their lives to stopping it.

Toledo Blade — Violence Interrupters: How to Measure Success in Toledo and Beyond

“They should not operate in hostility to law enforcement…but they need to operate almost autonomously,” said Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. “If the neighborhood starts to think that these programs are in cahoots with law enforcement, the young people in the neighborhood will stop talking to the workers.”

Louisville Courier Journal — Louisville is Spending Millions to Stop Gun Violence Before it Starts. Here’s How it Works.

Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is evaluating two crime reduction initiatives at the behest of New York City, which has been investing in a targeted focus on people involved in gun violence. They found the organizations funded through the city’s Office of Criminal Justice "don’t have enough information" because programs "aren’t asked to generate or collect data." "Everyone is running around doing what they think is right,” he said. “Every neighborhood says they know their people, their guys, their culture. But that makes it impossible to say whether the program itself is responsible for improvements in public safety.”

City Lab – As Murders Rise, New York City Turns to a Police Alternative

[Cure Violence workers] “try to stop the cycle of retaliation, and because they are not seen as an extension of law enforcement, the people most likely to be walking around with handguns in their pocket will talk to them and will allow them to settle a dispute before it turns violent,” said Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle — Can you put a price on a life taken by gun violence? That’s the $36M question.

“People have tried to put a number on the cost of a death. If someone is shot — even injured — much less killed, there are policing costs,” Butts told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Someone has to show up to process the scene. There are prison costs for the shooter, and then all the other costs for family who have a person shot and or killed. There’s lifelong trauma, loss of income. You can actually estimate the total cost.”

Repairing Trust

As part of an ongoing evaluation of the Cure Violence strategy, researchers found the program was potentially associated with less support for the use of violence and greater confidence in police. In a series of neighborhood surveys, young men in areas with Cure Violence programs were less likely to use violence to settle personal disputes and more likely to rely on law enforcement.

The Effects of Cure Violence in the South Bronx and East New York, Brooklyn

Promising evidence that the public health approach to violence reduction championed by Cure Violence may be capable of creating safe and healthy communities.
"A recent evaluation of the NYC program is perhaps most convincing. It was a very sophisticated analysis, done by experienced researchers using police data, hospital data, interviews and surveys. It showed not only reductions in shootings by up to 63 percent, and a change in norms (towards rejecting the use of violence). It also showed that the program resulted in an increase in confidence in police. We’ve heard from several people that this study convinced them even more that the Cure Violence approach really worked." - Gary Slutkin quoted in the Washington Post - June 18, 2018.

WNYC — Waiting for Violence to Break Out

“We don’t divulge matters that we work hard on to the police, and the police know that about us,” Mitchell said. “We're not sharing information that may be helpful in some sort of investigation. That's not or role." That code of silence lead to the demise of a Cure Violence group in Chicago, according to Jeffrey Butts, director of the research and evaluation center at John Jay College. "The precinct can feel aggrieved to find out this whole episode of violence that just happened was known, that people knew that it was about to happen and no one told the police,” Butts said.