violence interruptor
David Gaskin uses a megaphone during a shooting response in the Brooklyn borough of New York. S.O.S. is one of a growing number of taxpayer-financed “violence interrupter” groups in the nation’s largest city that enlist former gang members to attack acts of violence like outbreaks of a disease that they must keep from spreading. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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By Thomas D. Stucky, IUPUI

Indianapolis is no stranger to gun violence. The city is also trying many promising approaches to reducing violence that – if proven successful – could benefit other urban areas across the U.S.

The city’s homicide rate in 2020, at 24.4 per 100,000 residents, was approximately triple the national average, and the city’s highest on record. Approximately 80% of those homicides were perpetrated using firearms.

Gun homicides ended about 240 lives there in a recent two-year period, according to a study regarding this city of 900,000 people. The number of people who were shot but survived was far higher, and firearms account for a significant number of suicide deaths.

I’m a former police officer who has studied policies and programs that seek to prevent gun violence since the late 1990s. I have periodically partnered with Indianapolis officials and community agencies on anti-violence initiatives coordinated by the local government with many private- and nonprofit-sector partners since 2004.

Though some approaches developed in other places have worked here, and Indianapolis has implemented many programs that have been shown to make a difference elsewhere, there’s still not enough data to pinpoint which specific programs are the most effective.

But given the urgency of the problem, I believe it’s important to keep test-driving promising methods based on the information available so far. And because Indianapolis experiences many of the same gun violence issues that other medium and large cities face, what’s learned here can apply in many other places.

Stepping up efforts to reduce gun violence

Indianapolis intensified its efforts to reduce gun violence in 2006, when 144 people died by homicide – up 27% from a year earlier.

That year Bart Peterson, then serving as the city’s mayor, created the Community Crime Prevention Task Force, in which I played a role. Its mission was to seek evidence-based recommendations to reduce violence.

After reviewing the relevant academic research, I identified best practices and the most promising violence-prevention strategies. The task force, in turn, made recommendations to the Indianapolis City-County Council.

The city subsequently began to increase funding for efforts to reduce gun violence in coordination with the Indianapolis Foundation, a local charity.

This private-public partnership has been supporting nonprofits engaged in several approaches to reducing gun violence ever since.

The overarching purpose of all these programs is to help the people who are the most likely to be wounded or killed by a gun to obtain services, such as job training and health care, in their communities and change norms away from gun violence to reduce that risk.

Because people killed by guns in Indianapolis are most likely to be male, young and Black, young Black men are a major focus for all the programs. Researchers have also determined that 3 in 4 gun homicide victims and suspects in the city were known to law enforcement through prior investigation, arrests or convictions. So that is another factor in terms of determining who gets these services.

Employing formerly incarcerated people

Other grants from the private-public partnership in Indianapolis have funded cognitive behavioral therapy for people at risk of engaging in or being victims of gun violence. This is a method in which people get help identifying and pushing back on their negative thoughts and behaviors, making it easier to resolve disputes without resorting to violence.

The city has also partnered with several community organizations to prevent gun violence.

One such group is Recycleforce, which hires formerly incarcerated people to recycle old electronic goods. It’s among several enhanced transitional job programs that provide services and training to the recently incarcerated.

One study showed that Recycleforce participants were 5.8% less likely to be arrested and 4.8% less likely to be convicted of a crime in the first six months of the period reviewed. However, in the second six months, the benefits were no longer statistically significant.

A second study used in-depth interviews to assess the program. It suggested that the peer-mentor model Recycleforce follows works well.

Preventing future gunshots

A large Indianapolis hospital, Eskenazi, also runs several important anti-violence programs. One, called Prescription for Hope, assists people treated there for gunshot wounds.

Like similar hospital-based programs around the country, the one based at Eskenazi helps participants develop effective life skills and connects them with community resources to reduce criminal and risky behaviors.

An initial study of the program showed that only about 3% of participants returned to the emergency department with a repeat violent injury within the first year, compared with an 8.7% rate when the program wasn’t underway. This translates to a two-thirds reduction in the likelihood that someone with a violent injury will need similar emergency medical assistance in the future.

‘Violence interruption’

In 2021, Indianapolis began to hire “violence interrupters” to calm contentious situations and reduce the risk of violent retaliation.

The “violence interruption” method connects people with personal ties to those most at risk of becoming involved in gun violence as victims or perpetrators.

Violence interrupters try to mediate disputes and calm things down on the streets, at parties and during funerals before any shooting starts. They have credibility with violence-prone people because of their past experiences.

The interrupters also help at-risk people to obtain services and to change gun violence norms in their communities.

Violence interruption, part of a growing public health approach to reining in violence, originated in Chicago in 2000. Now called the “cure violence model,” it has spread quickly amid generally positive research results.

Indianapolis was employing about 50 violence interrupters as of mid-2022.

More federal funding

Most of the city’s violence-prevention grants funding these efforts have been relatively small until now, ranging from US$5,000 to $325,000.

But U.S. cities, including Indianapolis, now have have until 2024 to tap into a comparatively large stream of federal funding for community-based violence intervention. That money was included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package enacted in 2021.

Using these federal funds, the city is partnering with the Indianapolis Foundation to award grants totaling $45 million from 2022 through 2024 for local efforts to reduce gun violence.

Fortunately, Indianapolis’ homicides appear to be declining in 2022 compared with a year earlier.

As a local resident, I certainly welcome this news. But as researcher, I consider it to be too soon to tell whether this trend will continue or what the many public and private efforts to reduce gun violence underway will accomplish.The Conversation


Thomas D. Stucky is Professor of Criminal Justice at IUPUI.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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  1. Make a federal law that says 3 convictions of a violent crime is a federal offense and the punishment is execution. That frees up bed space, so DA’s do not have to plea bargain. Next, convicts must achieve a full curriculum high school diploma before release. Offer to pay their first 2 years of college upon release. Next, and most critical, is hold parents responsible for their children. If their child disrupts or misses class a certain amount of times, the parents have to come to municipal court and explain why. Hold school principals criminally responsible for graduating students to the next grade when that student fails the tests for their current grade level.

    • How very Prussian of you. More government, more laws, and more control is not the answer. Less government, fewer laws, and less control is. Decriminalize all drug offenses. Decriminalize all offenses in which no other person or property was harmed. Eliminate all gun laws. End all social welfare programs; welfare, public housing, public healthcare (medicare/medicaid, the (un)affordable care act, etc), public education. End minimum wage and all other government regulation of the workplace. End all government funding and regulation of healthcare and higher education. End unemployment insurance. End all government regulation of the banking system. In short, restore freedom, let people be responsible for themselves and let them suffer their own consequences.

      That will solve all of the solvable problems.

      • to Oh I would never say that

        You flunked history classes.

        That was already tried under Hoover and Busch and greed mongering resulting in the 1929 Depression and the 2007 great recession.

        • You’re a liar, asshole. Guess who was in control of Congress as the mortgage securities debacle developed into a financial crisis?

          Just the Facts: The Administration’s Unheeded Warnings About the Systemic Risk Posed by the GSEs

          “For many years the President and his Administration have not only warned of the systemic consequences of financial turmoil at a housing government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) but also put forward thoughtful plans to reduce the risk that either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac would encounter such difficulties. President Bush publicly called for GSE reform 17 times in 2008 alone before Congress acted. Unfortunately, these warnings went unheeded, as the President’s repeated attempts to reform the supervision of these entities were thwarted by the legislative maneuvering of those who emphatically denied there were problems.”

          Don’t Blame Bush for Subprime Mess
          By Investor’s Business Daily
          December 02, 2008

          Housing Crisis: A new report from the Associated Press claims that the mortgage meltdown is due largely to President Bush’s failure to act in 2005. Sounds plausible — until you actually look at the facts.

      • Gun Control zealots concoct a label not directed at criminals but at your firearm and fools lick it up and run with it…

        Violence is Violence, Period. Anyone capable of using a firearm in a crime is just as capable of using a knife, bat, feet, hands, vehicles or anything else. In other words label lickers…Violent Criminals are Center X.

      • Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint.
        – Alexander Hamilton

    • Federal government doesn’t have the authority to do that under the Constitution. 10th Amendment says it’s the states’ job.

      • We tried three strikes in Kalifornikadia. It worked quite well. Criminals were not free to prey on victims because they were in prison. Bleeding hearts complained about the high cost of keeping felons in prison. In fact, the cost of allowing felons to prey on society is much higher, counting the administrative costs of constantly cycling them through the court system, than it is to keep them locked up. What is the cost to a family to have a young daughter raped and murdered? How can one even measure that? What is the cost to society of having a young black man who just graduated from college and is about to enter the workforce gunned down because he just happened to be unknowingly walking in the wrong neighborhood after dark? That does not consider the loss to the family for raising a young man through 12 years of school on the straight and narrow. When one considers the costs to society of just the two events I mentioned, the cost to society of keeping those people safe pales in comparison.

        With the three strikes law in force, crime fell dramatically. The bleeding hearts won over the really stupid electorate who voted to seriously weaken the three strikes laws. In addition, the bleeding hearts, most of whom are very wealthy and live behind armed guarded gated communities turned out thousands of felons on early release. For some reason that I cannot fathom, they claim to not know the reason for the dramatic increase in most categories of crime. It seems so elemental that failure to understand the cause and effect baffles me. Put felons in prison and keep them there for extended periods of time crime goes down. Let felons loose or only incarcerate them for very modest periods of time and crime goes up. How complicated is that? It shouldn’t take a PhD in behavioral science to understand.

        • I agree fully. I have known several people grotesquely injured my criminals who see what they did as trivial. The cost is astronomical.

  2. “One study showed that Recycleforce participants were 5.8% less likely to be arrested and 4.8% less likely to be convicted of a crime in the first six months of the period reviewed. However, in the second six months, the benefits were no longer statistically significant.”

    So about a 95% recidivism rate in the first six months

  3. $45 million to blow through over the next two years, based on their “highly successful results” a statistically insignificant 5 percent reduction of recidivism, during covid lockgown)…. gee, thanks Joe. Glad to see that the economy-crushing federal “stimulu” are well worth the bankruptcy of The Former United States.

  4. “Recycleforce participants were 5.8% less likely to be arrested and 4.8% less likely to be convicted of a crime in the first six months of the period reviewed. …”

    That’s not a really great thing actually. Only 11% of all criminals are identified and arrested, and only about 3% actually get convicted. So its pretty likely one of the participants would still be able to comitt crimes during that six month period and not be identified and arrested, and not show up in the study.

  5. Sounds like a lot of BS to me (wholisticly).

    1) put criminals behind bars and keep them there. Especially the violent ones.

    2) let non-criminals have their guns allowing them to exercise their 2A rights.

    3) recognize that it IS the liberalism through the Democrat party and their leftist extremists that create all these issues.

    4) you can create all the ‘programs’ you want but none of that will ever actually work. That kinda stuff makes things worse.

    5) let’s actually start dealing with the drugs and human trafficking across the southern border. This contributes to your problems.

    6) who did you vote for? It makes ALL the difference.

  6. Return prisons to the miserable, terrifying hell holes they used to be. The idea is to make them so frightened they’ll do anything not to go back.

  7. This is a whole pile of BS.

    1. It takes credit for a natural cycle of decline that would have happened anyway.

    2. Its credits the program for people showing up shot less in the emergency room, but using these same people later basically say they weren’t shot a second time due to their program and ignore the likely hood of a person getting shot a second time in their evaluation period is lower to begin with.

  8. The thing these idiots don’t understand is that, despite their social excuses, most criminals are criminals because they want to be criminals.

  9. “Using these federal funds, the city is partnering with the Indianapolis Foundation to award grants totaling $45 million from 2022 through 2024 for local efforts to reduce gun violence.”

    Of which ~$39 million will be spent on the mysterious ‘administrative costs’ and the rest spent on a combination of bills and associated costs.

  10. A “Violence Interrupter”…

    I feel like I need to say it again.

    A “Violence Interrupter”.

    • Yeah me too…is he like those unarmed boyz in Chiraq? I smell community organgrinder er organizer here. “Da white man made me a gangbanger”. Raciss😎

    • I’m a ‘violence interrupter’… I’ve interrupted several violent criminals over time and stopped them from committing their violence against my wife and me, well, me and some trigger pressure that is.

  11. Job training and health care for young black men?
    Then recycling waste at minimum wage don’t work when a guy can make $6000 a week selling Rock?
    Gee, I can’t imagine why this didn’t work ? Maybe T-shirts? Hats? The Swedes got a 2/3 reduction by harassing, confiscating jewelery, drugs, guns, cars. The scum that list fronted drugs and became murder targets themselves the Swedes give new identity and move out.
    Also they are cutting immigration as they have realized they have failed to assimilate the young men.

    • Not an imported problem in this case… the output of these baby-mama factories are fully assimilated into the welfare state and will be cared for cradle-to-grave, which fortunately can be a relatively short period.

        • The expected outcome of supporting single women with children is increased single women with children.
          I was told (but don’t know if it’s true), a given man, woman, and child will receive more benefits if they report as the man alone and the woman with child.
          If true, the state promotes fatherless family.

    • Take the gang members who do violence,, convict them, 5 year maximum sentence straight time incarcerated. No parole or good behavior or probation. During the five years they get all the legal help they need to prove their innocence, ‘very speedy’ appeals access.. When the clock strikes 5 years and they have not been acquitted, they get executed.

      • Repeat offender gang members for any crime other than violence get 5 year maximum sentence straight time incarcerated. No parole or good behavior or probation. One appeal only, all the legal help they need, not acquitted spend the five years. After the five years into a ‘work release’ program – training first for six months on some civil engineering skill then works on public physical labor civil infrastructures projects for two years – to let them be a benefit to society.

  12. Singapore is very roughly
    1st conviction 10 lashers of cane 6 months breaking rocks in the sun
    2nd 25 lashes 2 years rocks
    3rd 5 years and deportation to nation of ancestry (kicked off boat near say Malaysia with no papers), or executed.
    Big quantity drugs? Arrest, execution in a few weeks.
    There are basically no addicts. Children are safe.
    Drugs cause misery.

    • You know, I’m a fan of the Singapore method. I believe lashes (and caning) create enough psychological harm to deter future behavior. And of course, death does prevent repeat criminals.

      Violent crime needs to be dealt with violently.

      • Tbe tour guide at Chengi prison gleefully described zero recidivism after third offense. Because they are deported without papers or dead.

  13. How about simply allowing people to arm themselves according to the Constitution without all the hassles and let criminals know that more and more law abiding citizens are armed and trained to protect themselves. In every state that enacted Make my Day or Castle Domain laws home burglaries diminished when criminals knew they could be shot for breaking and entering. The most effective way of reducing gun violence is to arm the public, fund the police, and get rid of these liberal judges and prosecutors who let criminals roam the streets as well as sealing our borders and having one legal system of immigration. Problem solved.

    • Indiana IS constitutional carry. And even though Indianapolis is sorta dim the test of the state(except Gary & Hammond)is mostly red. Your welcome🙄

    • Indiana already has constitutional carry, state preemption, castle doctrine, and self-defense immunity.

      What Indianapolis doesn’t have is a DA that does his job.

      • Very true. Case-in-point, the DA did not utilize the state’s red flag law (one of the first in the nation) for the guy who shot up the Fedex terminal. Could have been avoided if the DA did his job.

    • Precisely. This has been known to be effective for a couple hundred years, but the bleeding heart crowd will never understand it.

      “One bleeding-heart type asked me in a recent interview if I did not agree that ‘violence begets violence.’ I told him that it is my earnest endeavor to see that it does. I would like very much to ensure – and in some cases I have – that any man who offers violence to his fellow citizen begets a whole lot more in return than he can enjoy.” Jeff Cooper

  14. There are more guns than people in my household. No weekend shooting sprees, no murders, no nothing illegal. All this gun violence out there and it never shows up here. What am I doing wrong? I don’t understand. All the experts say gun violence is because of guns. I must be doing something wrong.

    • You must listen to the voices and inhale crystal meth fumes for several days in a row. Then, the guns will animate and attack.
      Get rid of your guns now.

    • There are more guns in MS than there are people, by several orders of magnitude. What that means is that the gang bangers and druggies tend to avoid confrontations with the general public and instead concentrate on shooting each other. We try to keep them well-supplied with ammunition.

      It’s all good. 🙂

  15. I live in Indianapolis. Nothing will improve as long as Mears is the DA. The solution to “gun violence”, as well as other crime, is deposing woke DAs and restoring a system where criminals are actually arrested, put in jail, and kept there.

  16. “Researchers have also determined that 3 in 4 gun homicide victims and suspects in the city were known to law enforcement through prior investigation, arrests or convictions.”

    I’ll bet if you take out the homicide victims, 4 in 4 suspects were known. Sounds like a really good place to start for public naming, harassment, law enforcement keeping a close eye on them, GPS bugging them, and incarcerating them with extending sentences every time including hard labor that pays for their room and board. I’ll bet you could move the marker for improvement into the double percentage digits without spending $45M. You want to cure a problem, focus on the troublemakers. Just IMHO…

  17. Tell Rick Mears to spend less time sucking up to Moms Demand Action, and more time prosecuting violent felons. Indianapolis doesn’t need more “programs”; we need a DA who does his job.

  18. Any updates on those “we’ll pay you not to commit a crime” cities? Seems like they’ve all gone radio silent since implementing their great ideas.

  19. Rehabilitation has been the human wet dream for hundreds of years, yet, societies cannot document that reduction in crime through rehabilitation out paces the growth in human population.

    People are evil at the core, cannot be rehabilitated through good hope, and good intentions (a statistically insignificant number can). Incarceration is also a poor teacher (except for an insignificant number). The difference is that incarceration takes the unsalvageable out of normal society for a period of time. (which frustrates those who profit from expanding crime)

    • I believe old age can chill a guy.
      Also if they get out of prison and into $80,000 a year bricklaying they might stay clean. I’ve met reformed criminals

      • “I believe old age can chill a guy.”
        Great endorsement of near-life sentencing.

        “I’ve met reformed criminals”
        They do exist, but the vast majority are incorrigible, and lay waste to neighborhoods.

        “Social Justice”, versus old school policing, has a history intertwined with the rise in crime overall. And the areas where crime is the densest remain as they have for decades.

        The theme in the article is that reductions in crime where “social justice” is applied, are attributable solely to “social justice” implementation. Is this not the same confusion of “correlation v. causation” that 2A defenders (us) face when trying to use increases in legal gun ownership with reduction in overall crime?

        Relocate all the prisons to the great southwestern desert, where escapees can be seen for days. Make the southwestern desert the new “Alcatraz”.

        • I love the idea of outsourcing max institutes to China or Cuba. Huge cost savings. Visitors could be flown in for free and wouldn’t put a dent in the savings.

      • I totally agree with you. There should be job training and programs for people wanting it. Lots of folks get older, want to get out of the “life”, and end up stuck because there isn’t options.

        All the money wasted on trying to help 18-25 year old scum bags “change” should be put towards helping those that want it.

        It shouldn’t come with a break on prison time either. If you want to get better, then here is your chance.

        For the others that commit true evil deeds or have multiple (ie 2) convictions for violence/ gang crime then they should get the hard spiked stick. No carrot.

        The violence of the 70-90’s was cleaned up by heavy prison time for offenders. Yes some undeserving got scooped up due to drug charges but that was due to a stupid “war on drugs”.

        We know better now and if we want to fix the crime problem we put away the people we already know are bad.

        We know how to fix this issue.

  20. The entire premise- that a violent act from a gun-wielding cretin is somehow worse than the same thug using a knife, club, bomb, vehicle, even bare hands, to cause death or great bodily harm to another human is luducrous. It’s a waste of time to seek to end “gun violence” without focussing on violence itself. Firearms are just low-hanging fruit for governing regimes to further control those whom they were elected to protect and maintain.

    The entire lack of value for life, whether human or other species, is probably one of the more “basic lacks” which civilizations have sought to revise since Cain beat his brother’s brains out with a rock. (God did not seek to ban rocks at that point, either…)

    I’m betting that in Indianapolis, NYC, Chicago, or jn any setting, that lack of respect for life comes from young people never being steered towards civilized activity by adult family members, who were themselves, steered in that direction for generations. This all begn in the mid 1960s when courts started allowing excuses to be made for serious criminal activities due to one’s perceived economic background. (Can you say “LBJ/Great Society”?) There’s really not much the social engineers can do for those types other than round them up and incarcerate them; it’s really up to the civilized citizens to enforce their own safety and protection for selves and property. Raw survival may suck, but it’s better than being dead, or being fed through a tube for years because some 15 year old wanted your wallet, watch or Chevy “at the time”.

  21. Indianapolis wasn’t so crime-infested a few decades ago. Back then, Republicans ran things and life there wasn’t bad. A few troubled neighborhoods, but crime was nominally under control. Then two things happened: D-rats took over and then all of the Dindu Nuffins from Gary, IN moved to Indy. Because the Dindus had so thoroughly decimated Gary, they drove out all forms of business and decent folk. Now that the Commiecrats run Indy, it is already turned into a blue (D) sh!thole.

    Leftists are a virus. This is why they must be surgically removed via free helicopter rides.

    • Exactly why we moved further out to a more rural county. Of course, the demographic is starting to hint a bit purple at times. Like a virus, progressivism spreads quickly.

  22. I work with someone I consider a friend and who I trust to have my back. He grew up in gang culture, he was a player. His mother was a crackhead, his dad a banger and never around.

    He was caught with drugs, a lot of drugs. He was sent to boot camp. The drills there broke him and he admitted to crying. They built him up and he wanted to changecad escape the life.

    Today, 30 years later he is a master in his trade and has been clean and out of trouble. He got a few relatives out of there and they too have changed for the better. He refuses to return to Chicago because he left nothing there he needs.

    A lot of these programs like cease fire and paying people he says are doomed to fail. He says some can be saved, the rest must be locked away forever.

  23. @Richard Kudrna
    “I love the idea of outsourcing max institutes to China or Cuba.”

    Wonder if the Norks would accept US funded max institutes?

  24. How about routing all that money to vigilante groups and PMC’s and charge them with knocking the shit out of drug dealers, pedophiles, multiple felons etc. Take the criminals and drop them off at prisons or some pansy assed rehab center. Cram them all into jails and let them live like the vermin they are. Social rehab programs don’t work. Law and order does.

  25. Some good intentions. Improvements? As a therapist I can tell you that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy doesn’t go deep enough to reach the internal brokenness of these shooters. Most of these kids have been traumatized in some way. CBT doesn’t reach the trauma. Prevention would be to do the hard work of supporting parents of these kids as fatherlessness creates a searing wound and a void of a vital relationship to shape the child’s development. Deal with root causes, not symptoms.

    • I suspect that brain damage from FAS and fetal toxins (lead, crack, solvents) sets tge kids up as adults with no impulse control.

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