Program Goals/Target Population
Cure Violence (formerly known as CeaseFire—Chicago) is a Chicago, Illinois–based violence prevention program administered by the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention. Cure Violence uses an evidence-based public health approach to reduce shootings and killings by using highly trained street violence interrupters and outreach workers, public education campaigns, and community mobilization. Rather than aiming to directly change the behaviors of a large number of individuals, Cure Violence concentrates on changing the behavior and risky activities of a small number of selected members of the community who have a high chance of either "being shot" or "being a shooter" in the immediate future.
Three causal factors are emphasized in the program theory underlying Cure Violence: norms, decisions, and risks. These were seen as three "levers" that could be "pulled" to stop shootings in the city. Cure Violence's interventions are based on a coherent theory of behavior that specifies the "inputs" to be assembled and set in motion and how they cause the "outcomes," including reductions in shootings and killings. Many of the program’s daily activities target the causal factors linking inputs to outcomes, which were presumed to be among the major determinates of violence. The causal factors that are believed to contribute to violence include community norms, availability of on-the-spot alternatives to resorting to violence when the situation arises, and awareness of the risks and costs associated with violence.
The activities of Cure Violence are organized into five core components, which address both the community and those individuals who are most at risk of involvement in a shooting or killing:
- Street-level outreach
- Public education
- Community mobilization
- Faith leader (clergy) involvement
- Police and prosecutor participation
The program aims to change operative norms regarding violence, both in the wider community and among its clients through community mobilization, a public education campaign, and mentoring efforts of outreach workers who attempt to influence beliefs about the appropriateness of violence. Outreach workers are charged with stimulating norm change among clients and guiding them toward alternatives to shooting as a way of solving problems. Outreach workers counsel a small group of young clients, who are recruited from the streets and not through institutions, and connect them to a range of services. The outreach workers also conduct a significantly high number of conflict mediations. The efforts of the clergy and residents of the community are also aimed primarily at norm change, both in the community and among clients of the outreach workers and other high-risk youths. Community involvement also targets the perceived costs of violence. The public education campaign seeks both to change violence-related norms and to enhance the perception of the risks of engaging in violence.
In addition, the program provides on-the-spot alternatives to violence when gangs and individuals on the street are making behavior decisions. The program treats young people as rational actors capable of making choices, and the strategy is to promote their consideration of a broader array of response to situations that too often elicit shootings and killings as a problem-solving tactic. Violence interrupters work on the streets alone or in pairs to mediate conflicts between gangs and stem the cycle of retaliatory violence that threatens to break out following a shooting. Violence interrupters work the street at night, talking to gang leaders, distraught friends and relatives of recent shooting victims, and others who are positioned to initiate or sustain cycles of violence.
Finally, the program aims to increase the perception of risks and costs of involvement in violence among high-risk, mostly young people. This reflects a classic deterrence model of human behavior, with risks such as incarceration, injury, and death highlighted for youth. Actions by the police and prosecutors, as well as tougher antigun legislation, are seen as targeting the risks surrounding involvement in shootings.
16 to 25
Skogan and colleagues (2008) found that the Cure Violence intervention (known as CeaseFire—Chicago at the time of the study) was associated with decreases in shootings, killings, and retaliatory homicides, and appeared to make shooting hot spots cooler in some neighborhoods but not others. Overall, the results were mixed.
In four areas, there was a statistically significant decrease in the number of all shots (measured as the number of gun-related batteries and assaults reported to police) that was associated with the introduction of Cure Violence. These areas included Auburn Green (17.4 percent decline in all shootings), Logan Square (21.7 percent decline), Southwest (24.2 percent decline), and West Garfield Park (24.4 percent decline).
There was a statistically significant decrease in the number of all shots in West Humboldt Park as well (13.2 percent), but there was a comparable decline in the matched comparison area so it was unknown if the reduction observed in West Humboldt Park could be attributed to the Cure Violence intervention or if this was a result of the overall decrease in crime that was occurring across the entire city of Chicago at the same time. In Rogers Park and Englewood, there were no significant declines. Cure Violence appears to have contributed to a reduction in the number of all shots in four of the seven communities.
There was consistent evidence of an effect of Cure Violence on the number of actual shootings (measured as gun-related batteries and assaults combined with gun-related homicides known to police) in three areas: West Garfield Park (23.4 percent decline), Southwest (26.6 percent decline), and Englewood (34.5 percent decline). In these areas, there were no significant declines in shootings in the matched comparison areas that paralleled the significant declines in the program areas.
There was also a significant decline in actual shootings in Auburn Gresham (down 19.6 percent), Logan Square (down 20.7 percent), and West Humboldt Park (down 15.7 percent). But there were similar drops occurring in the matched comparison areas as well. Rogers Park saw no significant decline in actual shootings. Cure Violence appears to have contributed to a reduction in actual shootings in three of the seven communities.
The program contributed to the decline in gun homicides in only one of the seven study sites (Auburn Gresham), where the decline in the program area was twice that in the comparison area. In Rogers Park and West Garfield Park there were significant declines in killings, but those results corresponded to declines in the matched comparison areas and could not be attributed to Cure Violence. In all other program areas, there were no significant declines in killings. Cure Violence appears to have contributed to a reduction in killings in only one of the seven communities.
Crime Hot Spots
Analysis of crime hot spots contrasted shooting patterns before and after the introduction of Cure Violence. In every program area there was a significant decline in the median density of shootings (measured as shootings per square mile) in the 2 years following the introduction of Cure Violence. In four of the seven areas—Auburn Gresham, Southwest, West Garfield Park, and West Humboldt Park—there was evidence that decreases in the size and intensity of shooting hot spots were linked to the introduction of Cure Violence. For instance, West Garfield Park experienced a 24 percent decline in median shooting density, compared with 5 percent in the comparison areas, while Southwest had a 30 percent decline in median shooting density compared with 5 percent in the comparison areas.
The analysis of gang-related homicides within and among gangs found that for all program areas there was no significant drop in gang homicides using the most basic indicator of change. However, the percentage change in the overall level of activity within gang networks declined significantly more for three of the seven programs areas than the matched comparison areas. These three areas were Auburn Gresham (28 percent change), Englewood (42 percent change), and West Humboldt Park (58 percent change). The level of activity in the remaining program areas either increased or did not decrease as much as the comparison area.
There was a significantly greater drop in the average gang involvement in murder for three program areas—Auburn Gresham (40 percent decline), Southwest (11 percent decline), and East Garfield Park (12 percent decline)—compared with the matched comparison areas. There were marginal differences between two programs areas (Englewood and West Humboldt Park) and the matched comparison areas, while two program areas (Logan Square and Rogers Park) actually had increases in gang involvement in murder.
The proportion of gang homicides that were reciprocal in nature (killings in retaliation for earlier events) decreased significantly more in five program areas (Auburn Gresham, Englewood, Logan Square, Southwest, and East Garfield Park) than in comparison areas. In these five program areas, there was a 100 percent reduction in retaliation killings.