“The recent spate of gun violence illustrates the need for programs such as the City Council’s cure violence initiative,” Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-North Shore) said in a press release celebrating New York City’s forthcoming $12.7m payout to most favored felons and known gang bangers (a.k.a., “violence interrupters”). “Our existing cure violence program has made strides in keeping our neighborhoods safe with trained violence interrupters, conflict mediation, credible messengers and other proven tools. The initiative is one of the many resources we have to defuse gun violence and other volatile situations, and I’m pleased that this City Council initiative will deliver additional resources to communities where they are needed. I will aggressively continue to work toward seeking solutions to gun violence in the community.” Yes, well . . .
As we pointed out when the so-called “violence interrupters” program first spread like a virus from Chicago to New York, there is no credible evidence that the program has had any effect on reducing “gun violence.” I say credible, because cureviolence.org’s “results” web page cites three – count ’em three – studies that show an incredible reduction in firearms-related killings and shootings.
The Chicago CeaseFire report was prepared by six researchers (at taxpayer’s expense) who readily admit that the violence interrupters program is based on unproven concepts.
CeaseFire’s interventions are “theory driven.” The program is built upon a coherent theory of behavior that specifies how change agents could be mobilized to address some of the immediate causes of violence: norms regarding violence, on-the-spot decision making by individuals at risk of triggering violence, and the perceived risks and costs of involvement in violence among the targeted population. Some of the program’s core concepts and strategies were adapted from the public health field, which has shown considerable success in addressing issues such as smoking, seat belt use, condom use, and immunization.
So “gun violence” as an epidemic. Only the “doctors” are also the patients.
CeaseFire occasionally and unknowingly hired individuals who were still involved with and may have still been active gang members, although all of its policies and procedures were aimed at preventing this.
Make no mistake: CeaseFire frequently and intentionally paid over 100 “previously incarcerated people” to stop “gun violence.” Program cost? $18.7m. Bottom line? Well, it seems that violence interrupters don’t like filling out paperwork. And the people in charge of collating the limited information didn’t trust the data they received. In fact . . .
Violence interrupters could not prevent all shootings. For instance, arguments were difficult or impossible for interrupters to address when they had no influence over the disputants. More importantly, violence interrupters could not always mediate conflicts through arguments based in street logic. Shootings could be illogical, random, and unpredictable. Due to the unpredictability of human action, conflicts violence interrupters believed they mediated sometimes led to homicides later.
Feeling good about the program yet? If so, then know this: the report’s conclusions are based on crime rate comparisons between areas of Chicago with violence interrupters and areas without violence interrupters – despite the report’s previous admission that they couldn’t get staff to stick to given territories (i.e. “spillover in the geographical targeting of interventions”). Areas chosen/created by the researchers based on unspecified criteria.
And then there’s the fact that there are other important factors in play. So much so that the report’s last paragraph undermines its own [highly dubious] conclusions.
Lying in the background of the evaluation is a huge drop in violence in Chicago, one that began in 1992. The reasons for this decline are, as elsewhere in the nation, ill-understood, and we could not account for possible remaining differences between the target and comparison areas in terms of those obviously important factors.
In short, “These data are not particularly suited for formal statistical analysis.” And yet, Cure Violence, the New York-based violence interrupter service that’s due to receive $12.7m, trumpets CeaseFire’s success as “Reductions in shootings of 41% to 73%.” I don’t think so. But then I’m thinking, not simply accepting the romantic ideal that you can reason someone out of violence. What a waste of money – unless you’re a politician looking to buy votes.