Dr. Gary Slutkin asserts that the epidemic of violence should be treated as a public health issue, and so far his methods are working.
In 1995, Dr. Gary Slutkin founded the Cure Violence initiative (originally called Cease Fire) with the belief that “violence should be treated like an epidemic and can be prevented by stopping the behavior at its source.” By approaching violence like an infectious disease, by shifting the “world view of violence away from prosecution” and instead focusing on prevention, Cure Violence has been proven to be able to significantly reduce killings and shootings in some of the most violent communities in the US and across the globe.
The Cure Violence method … begins with epidemiological analysis of the clusters involved and transmission dynamics, and uses several new categories of disease control workers – including violence interrupters, outreach behavior change agents, and community coordinators – to interrupt transmission to stop the spread and to change norms around the use of violence. Workers are trained as disease control workers, similar to tuberculosis workers or those looking for first cases of bird flu or SARS.
These methods have resulted in reductions in shootings and killings of 16% to 34% that are directly attributed to the strategy, and from 41% to 73% overall. The initial implementation has been replicated in 11 communities in Chicago and Baltimore with large reductions in violence found by independently performed studies commissioned by the US Department of Justice, the Center for Disease Control, and Johns Hopkins.
This new approach is now being used by over a dozen U.S. cities and a growing number of countries, including in Kenya to prevent or reduce election violence, South Africa to prevent and reduce community violence, and Iraq to prevent and reduce interpersonal and inter-tribal violence.
Award-winning director and producer Steve James spent a year filming the Cure Violence staff, called Interrupters,who are “seasoned, well-trained professionals from the communities they represent with a background on the streets.” Many of the Interrupters are former gang members, drug dealers, and even “past perpetrators of violence,” who are now actively involved and instrumental in pinpointing and diffusing situations that, without intervention, could potentially explode into community wide violence. The award-winning documentary “The Interrupters,” which aired on the PBS series Frontline, can be viewed here.