Yesterday, NUCHR delegates went into Chicago to learn about peace building in action. Delegates traveled to various sites of CeaseFire, part of the larger organization Cure Violence, to learn about the violence interrupter model that Cease Fire has successfully implemented in over 15 communities in Chicago, as well as cities throughout the country. These experiential learning trips were followed by NUCHR’s middle keynote, Tio Hardiman, Director for CeaseFire Illinois and the creator of the violence interrupter initiative
Cease Fire has gained international attention because of its unique approach to dealing with violence–it’s treated like a public health problem. Gary Slutkin, MD, founded Cure Violence, and brought his background in public health to address the social issue of violence. Cure Violence operates under the assumption that violence spreads like a disease, and that to stop it, social norms have to be targeted.
“We believe that there aren’t bad people, just bad behaviors,” Hardiman said in his address.
Hardiman designed the violence interrupter model, in which CeaseFire workers mediate and resolve conflicts in communities in an effort to avoid violent resolutions.
Delegates met violence interrupters and outreach workers during their trips, learning first hand about the communities in which they work and the way they approach gun violence in Chicago. Interrupters emphasized that most violence in communities is defensive, and that it can be stopped by changing social norms. According to the Cure Violence website, “many [interrupters] have a history of involvement with ‘life on the streets.'” Thus, they understand the complexities of living in a violent neighborhood and are in a unique position to be well-known, trusted, and influential in their communities.
Cease Fire has shown to be very effective in the communities in which they work. In 2011, the Chicago neighborhoods with Cease Fire offices saw between 16 and 73 percent decreases in shootings.
We look forward to further collaborations with Cease Fire Illinois, and are grateful for their time and work!