It’s no secret that we have a gun violence problem in the Untied States. Every year, tens of thousands of Americans die from gun-related injuries. And while historically, the solution has been to pour money into policing and prisons, the White House has quietly been working on something new.
On Thursday, White House Domestic policy Advisor Susan Rice and White House Intergovernmental Affairs Director Julie Chávez Rodriguez convened the final meeting of the White House Community Violence Intervention Collaborative (CVIC).
The program, which has been training and funding community-based violence intervention programs in 16 localities across the United States, has mostly slipped under the radar. But for over a year and half, community violence intervention leaders have been receiving funding to the tune of $100 million and tactical support from the White House.
So what exactly is community violence interruption, and how does it make communities safer?
The idea, according to the initiative’s senior advisor Aqeela Sherrills, is to train members of the community to step-in before violence occurs.
“If we trained residents, as public safety professionals and trained them in conflict resolution and mediation and de escalation strategies, when conflicts arise, they can actually mediate these situations to a peaceful resolve before we even call the cops,” says Sherrills.
Sherrills says he doesn’t want to replace policing, but that what we’ve been doing thus far hasn’t worked. In order to create a more community-centered approach, CVIC has worked with local leaders to build financial and tactical support to violence interrupters and community members at risk of perpetuating violence within their community.
Making sure that violence interrupters have credibility with the people they’re working with is huge, says Sherrills. He says that he makes sure to hire “non traditional leaders, ex-gang members and ex-convicts” who can speak to people in communities at risk for violence.
Ensuring violence interrupters are prepared and compensated for their work is also incredibly important. Violence Interrupters are required to go through a 30 hour training course, says Sherrills.
“This work is extremely difficult…people lose their lives trying to mediate conflicts to a peaceful resolve,” he says. “So we need people to be highly trained and skilled in terms of leveraging their relationship capital in communities to prevent and treat violence as a public health issue.”
Read the rest of the article, White House: Try "Violent Interrupters" as A Crime-Fighting Solution.