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News and notes on guns in America

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Big Drops in Gun Crime Reported in NYC Neighborhoods Where ‘Violence Interrupters’ Patrol

The most comprehensive study yet of a popular violence-prevention group’s New York City program has found it effective in reducing gun crime and defusing situations that can lead to shootings in two neighborhoods where it is in force.

Cure Violence, a national, public health-based program that employs “credible messengers” like former gang members and ex convicts from within the community to help defuse violent situations before they start, was responsible for statistically significant drops in the number of shooting victims and gunshot hospitalizations in areas of East New York, Brooklyn, and the South Bronx, according to a new study by researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

The study’s review of shootings and gun injuries provides “strong evidence” that Cure Violence protects public safety, the study says.

In the section of East New York served by the program, gun injury rates were cut in half over the three years the program was studied, compared to a 5 percent drop in a neighboring community with similar characteristics. The area of the South Bronx served by Cure Violence experienced “strong and significant” declines in gun injuries (down 37 percent) and shootings (down 63 percent), the study says. That compares to 29 percent and 17 percent reductions, respectively, in East Harlem.

Researchers also found that with Cure Violence in place, young men were less likely to respond to a potential social conflict — say, someone stepping on a foot — by becoming violent.  

“People who have previous justice system involvement and have turned their lives around to build their community … are important emissaries for violence prevention and conflict resolution,” said Eric Cumberbatch, the executive director of the Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence.

The study was paid for by the New York City Council, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Cure Violence operates on the idea that violence should be treated like a disease, by identifying and treating the people most at risk of carrying it out.  Its employees work closely with people on the streets, and try to stop them from escalating petty disagreements and retaliating after a violent fight.

While Cure Violence is the name of the umbrella organization, individual cities and neighborhoods have their own chapter names. The two studied were S.O.S. South Bronx and Man Up! Inc. in Brooklyn.   

Jeffrey Butts, one of several John Jay researchers who conducted the study, said the takeaway should be that the program is a useful part of a violence-prevention strategy.

“No one thinks Cure Violence is an all-purpose solution for all violence. No one thinks it’s a replacement for law enforcement. But it should be part of the toolbox,” he said.

Butts said that, although much of the funding for the study came from New York City to evaluate one of its own programs, researchers were conscientious about doing their work objectively.

As New York’s Cure Violence program has thrived, chapters in some other cities have struggled. As The Trace reported earlier this year, Chicago’s chapter has been decimated by budget cuts, even as violent crime and murder rates in the city have shot up dramatically.