Cure Violence Global was founded in 1995 by Dr. Gary Slutkin, MD, 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 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 regionally, expanding to 18 communities in Chicago and an additional 9 cities in the state of Illinois. In 2009, an evaluation of the Chicago program was published finding reductions in shootings and killings of 41% to 73% with 100% reduction in retaliation killings in several communities.
Starting in 2008, Cure Violence Global began working with partners in new regions in the United States to quickly expand to several new cities, including Baltimore, New York, New Orleans, Kansas City, and other sites. Several additional evaluations have been conducted on these replication sites, including in New York City (63% reduction I shootings, norm change), Baltimore (56% reduction in killings, norm change), Philadelphia (30% reduction in shootings), and others. Cure Violence Global also developed a hospital-based component and provides trainings to communities that implement this aspect of the approach. Currently, Cure Violence Global is working in close partnership with organizations in more than 60 communities across 16 US cities to implement the approach, with more than 10 additional cities implementing approaches inspired by the Cure Violence model.
Also in 2008, Cure Violence Global began its first international adaptation and replication of the methodology in Basra and Sadr City, Iraq. Since then, international programs have been implemented in Argentina (Rosario, Santa Fe), Canada (Halifax and Alberta), Colombia (Cali), El Salvador (San Salvador, San Pedro Mazawal), Guatemala (Guatemala City), Honduras (San Pedro Sula), Jamaica (St. Catherine North, St. James), Lebanon (training for Syria work), Kenya (Nairobi, Rift valley), Mexico (Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua City, Culiacan), 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. These 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 demonstrate that the approach can be successfully adapted. Today, the Cure Violence approach is being implemented in more than 40 cities, across 12 countries and five continents.
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.
In 2019, Cure Violence Global announced the formation of a new, independent NGO. Previously, the work of Cure Violence Global was based out of an NGO at the University of Illinois at Chicago school of Public Health and focused on development of the approach and replication of the model to new cities. With the new NGO, Cure Violence Global will shift more towards leveraging partnerships with other organizations to more efficiently spread the approach, as well as adding several new adaptations and platforms that can enable a larger impact in 2020-21, including:
1) Hate inspired violence – Building teams and outreach networks to reduce hate inspired violence around the world, including violence against immigrants (US, EU), antisemitism, islamophobia, violence against other minorities (e.g. Kurds), and gender/sexual orientation-based violence.
2) Potential violence related to protests – Developing new protocols and models and in discussions about possible trainings to ensure that violence does not erupt on either side by adding a violence interruption lens and through existing frameworks around mediation. This is being applied in areas in the United States, East Asia (e.g. Hong Kong), Latin America, and the Middle East.
3) Conflict zones – Working in partnership with the Harvard Negotiation Project, Carter Center, and multiple former and existing diplomats to apply a public health approach to conflict zones, working both directly in the community and indirectly through emissaries. This approach recognizes the importance of stopping violence as the primary goal, with political solutions allowed to run their course. For example, Cure Violence Global trained 43 people representing all of 3 regions of Syria, who then trained 600 people in violence interruption. In the first year of this work, there were 111 potential violent events across three geographic areas in the country, of which 93 (83.8%) were mediated successfully. 62% of the conflict were moderate of high risk of violent retaliation. This included persons living within villages, as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs). This is the first time there has been documented mediations in a serious conflict zone. Beliefs about violence were also shown to change. Work on higher level interruption, including with/between governments themselves, is being piloted with this diplomat and former diplomat network.
4) Violence against women and children – Cure Violence Global team has a specialist trained in methods of protecting women in situations of abuse or abduction. This work of protecting women and children is being piloted in Honduras and Mexico with some elements possibly applicable to the Middle East.
5) Regional level planning – Cure Violence Global is working in partnership with Inter-American Development Bank and others to develop a region plan to find ways to more rapidly and efficiently scale to regional level outcomes in Latin America and the Caribbean. This region has the highest rates of violence in the world
6) Movement to reframe Violence as a Health Issue and change the way its being managed through new systems – Cure Violence Global is co-leading a coalition of over 700 leaders from health and other related sectors drawn from over 50 cities and over 150 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 Global staff are facilitating its work.
The Economist termed the Cure Violence method “the approach that will come to prominence.” In the past 19 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. 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 a Global Ashoka Fellow and senior advisor to the WHO.