ProPublica — Can Community Programs Help Slow the Rise in Violence?

by Alec MacGillis
January 30, 2023

… In 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, which included funding that many cities are spending on “community violence intervention,” the catchall term for non-police approaches to reducing violent crime. In addition to interrupters, these measures include programs that detach young men from gangs, those which meet with shooting victims in hospitals to deter retaliation and those which offer young men employment and counseling in cognitive-behavioral therapy.

… But some experts have interpreted the results in these cities, and in others, as being more mixed. Jeff Butts, a sociologist at John Jay College who led a study in New York, told me that interrupter programs are fundamentally difficult to assess — it’s hard to know whether a decline in shootings in an area is due to the interrupters or to all the other factors at play. The assessments typically tally only the shootings within the narrow boundaries of interrupter zones, even though the interrupters’ work inevitably ranges farther afield. Further complicating the research is that the approach varies so much from one site to another. “They live under the same banner, the same T-shirts, the same brand name, the same philosophy,” Butts said. “But they all insist on doing things their own way.”

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Published in cooperation with The New Yorker.