Cure Violence was founded in 1995 by Dr. Gary Slutkin, former head of the World Health Organization‘s (WHO) Intervention Development Unit. Upon Dr. Slutkin’s return to the U.S., he became concerned about the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago. Observing the ways in which gun shootings and homicides clustered and spread in communities, he became convinced that the issue of violence is fundamentally misdiagnosed and developed an epidemiological approach to arrest and prevent it.
This approach is grounded in an understanding that violence follows a contagious process, and can therefore be prevented using disease control and behavior change methods. The Cure Violence model focuses on: 1) violence detection and interruption; 2) behavior change among the highest risk; 3) social norm change.
The first Cure Violence (formerly known as CeaseFire) program was launched in West Garfield Park, one of the most violent communities in Chicago, and was quick to produce results, reducing shootings by 67% in its first year. From 2000-2008, Cure Violence focused its activities in the United States, quickly expanding to Baltimore, New York, New Orleans, Kansas City, and other sites.
In 2008, Cure Violence began its first international adaptation and replication of the methodology in Basra and Sadr City, Iraq. Since then, international programs have been added in Argentina, Canada (Halifax and Alberta), Colombia (Cali), El Salvador (San Salvador and San Pedro Mazawal), Honduras (San Pedro Sula), Jamaica (St. Catherine North and St. James), Lebanon (training for Syria work), Kenya (Nairobi and Rift valley), Mexico (Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City), Morocco, Nigeria (in-country training), South Africa (Hanover Park), Syria (western and northern), Trinidad & Tobago (Port of Spain), United Kingdom (London) and the West Bank. Cure Violence has also provided training in violence prevention techniques to representatives of governments, NGOs and communities from dozens of other countries. Today, the Cure Violence approach is being implemented in more than 40 cities, across 12 countries and five continents.
Cure Violence provides comprehensive training and technical assistance (TTA) to all adaptation and replication partners. In the past 18 years, application of the model has expanded from addressing community violence in some of the most dangerous cities and neighborhoods in the United States to adaptations that address violence in other countries and cultures such as sectarian and tribal violence and other settings such as schools, refugee camps, conflict zones, juvenile detention facilities and prisons. The model is also being used to design approaches to preventing domestic violence, racial and ethnic violence, ideologically-inspired violence, and mass shootings.
The model has undergone 11 independent evaluations to date, all of which have reported statistically significant reductions in violence. A John Jay College of Criminal Justice evaluation of two New York City neighborhoods operating Cure Violence programs from 2014 to 2016 found steeper declines in acts of gun violence and increases in the expression of pro-social norms compared with similar neighborhoods not operating Cure Violence programs. The study found reductions across all measures, including a 63% reduction in shootings in one community, a 50% reduction in gunshot wounds in the other, less support for the use of violence, and greater confidence in police. A recent evaluation of the Cure Violence program in Port of Spain, Trinidad found substantial and significant reductions in violence due to the program. The program site in Trinidad had a 45% reduction in violent crime and 23% reduction in calls to police.
The Economist termed the Cure Violence method “the approach that will come to prominence.” In 2012, the Cure Violence approach in Chicago was profiled in an award winning documentary called The Interrupters. The Cure Violence approach is actively promoted in the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Governors’ Association (US), National Institute of Justice (US), and others. Dr. Slutkin is an Ashoka Fellow and senior advisor to the WHO.
The newest and perhaps most ambitious focus of Cure Violence’s work grows out of its increasing awareness that effective implementation of the health model is necessary but not sufficient to engender broad scale and system-wide violence reduction. The ultimate barrier that must be dismantled to achieve this is prevailing norms and misconceptions regarding both the causes of, and effective responses to, the problem of violence. Over the past three years, considerable groundwork has been laid to incubate “The Movement towards Violence as a Health Issue,” a coalition of over 500 leaders from health and other related sectors drawn from over 50 cities and over 100 national organizations committed to changing perceptions, creating comprehensive systems change and promoting policies to support and sustain the work that is saving and improving lives by preventing violence of all forms. The Movement towards Violence as a Health Issue is co-chaired by Dr. Alfred Sommer, Dean Emeritus of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. David Satcher, former U. S. Surgeon General and Director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehead School of Medicine, and Dr. Gary Slutkin and Cure Violence staff are facilitating its work.