USA Today– Congress Approved $25M in Funding for Gun Safety Research. Now What?

Grace Hauck, Nicquel Terry Ellis, Max Filby
February 9, 2020
[excerpt from USA Today: read the entire article ]

‘Epidemic control methods’
Other researchers have proposed studies on the effectiveness of violence prevention programs, scores of which have cropped up in communities across the country. But some of those leading such efforts say money should be spent supporting what has already been proven to work.

“The research is being underimplemented,” said Gary Slutkin, former head of the World Health Organization’s Intervention Development Unit and founder of Cure Violence, a Chicago-based nonprofit that treats violence with disease control and behavior change methods.

“Sometimes you have a lot of research on, say, polio vaccine, but certain countries aren’t being vaccinated. The big gap now in the field is the implementation of public health approaches, and the shifting in their thinking toward public health.”

The I Grow Chicago Peace Campus in Englewood, Chicago on Nov. 22, 2019. Grace Hauck

Cure Violence takes a three-step approach to treating violence: detecting and interrupting potentially violent conflicts, identifying and treating those at risk, and mobilizing communities to change norms.

The organization has trained more than 1,000 “violence interrupters,” who work in their communities to mediate conflicts, prevent retaliations and keep conflicts “cool.” The interrupters work closely with those at risk of committing violence to get the services they need and collaborate with their neighbors.

“One case of flu causes another case. Same for TB, for AIDs, for violence. That requires epidemic control methods,” Sluktin said. “So we have to find a case that might be happening – like someone who might be doing a shooting – and then interrupt that.”

The program is working in about a hundred communities across 15 countries. But the greatest success has been seen in New York, Sluktin said, where the Legislature has provided consistent funding for the program since 2009.

An ongoing evaluation by John Jay College of Criminal Justice found one neighborhood experienced a 63% drop in monthly shooting victims from 2009 to 2016, based on New York Police Department data.

New York spends approximately $40 million a year on Cure Violence programs. Slutkin estimates that big cities require about $15 million to $30 million to run an effective program, and small cities need $5 million to $10 million.

“That’s why $25M for research is so small. And what’s needed is program dollars,” he said. “And these are cities that have police budgets in the hundreds of millions.”

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