Increase The Peace Project

By Alvin Codner:

Even though the City of Kissimmee crime rate has decreased over the years, crime is still quite present. I personally have lived in areas that have a higher crime rate than Kissimmee such as New Orleans, Atlanta, and the Bay Area. While those areas did have high crime rates when I lived there, their actions and initiatives to decrease the crime rate were effective. The Cure Violence Health Model is the guideline I plan to use to decrease and or prevent the violence in Kissimmee, FL. Below are some key facts you should be aware of about the model and this project:

Negative Health Effects from Violence

Direct Effects – physical injury to the victim of violence

  • It’s the #1 cause of death for African-American and Latino males aged 15-24

  • In many cities, violence is the #1 cause of death for all people under the age of 34

  • Since 1960, more than 1 million people have died in the United States from intentional violence

Indirect Effects – mental trauma and behavioral effects

  • Chronic disease (heart disease, asthma, stroke, cancer, and more)

  • Mental health problems (PTSD, stress, anxiety, depression, and more)

  • Lower quality of life

  • Increased risk of perpetrating violence

Detect and interrupt potentially violent conflicts

  • Trained violence interrupters and outreach workers prevent shootings by identifying and mediating potentially lethal conflicts in the community, and following up to ensure that the conflict does not reignite.

  • Prevent Retaliations – Whenever a shooting happens, trained workers immediately work in the community and at the hospital to cool down emotions and prevent retaliations – working with the victims, friends and family of the victim, and anyone else is connected with the event.

  • Mediate Ongoing Conflicts – Workers identify ongoing conflicts by talking to key people in the community about ongoing disputes, recent arrests, recent prison releases, and other situations and use mediation techniques to resolve them peacefully

  • Keep Conflicts ‘Cool’ – Workers follow up with conflicts for as long as needed, sometimes for months, to ensure that the conflict does not become violent.

Trained Credible Messengers Detect Potentially Violent Events and Interrupt Them To Prevent Violence

  • Formulate and regularly update (daily, weekly, and quarterly) a strategic plan of action for gathering information and assessing its accuracy and use.

  • Identify situations that are likely to result in violent acts, such as a prior shooting, group conflict, territory dispute, formation of new group, major arrest, anniversaries, release of key individual from incarceration, and ongoing conflicts.

  • Respond to shooting victims at partner hospitals by approaching the injured patient, as well as their family and friends, who may be planning to retaliate on their behalf.

  • Peacefully mediate conflicts using training in techniques such as creating cognitive dissonance, derailing, changing the thinking, changing the decision, providing information, buying time, and negotiating compromise.

Identify and treat highest risk

  • Trained, culturally-appropriate outreach workers work with the highest risk to make them less likely to commit violence by meeting them where they are at, talking to them about the costs of using violence, and helping them to obtain the social services they need – such as job training and drug treatment.

  • Access Highest Risk – Workers utilize their trust with high-risk individuals to establish contact, develop relationships, begin to work with the people most likely to be involved in violence.

  • Change Behaviors – Workers engage with high-risk individuals to convince them to reject the use of violence by discussing the cost and consequences of violence and teaching alternative responses to situations.

  • Provide Treatment – Workers develop a caseload of clients who they work with intensively – seeing several times a week and assisting with their needs such as drug treatment, employment, leaving gangs.

Trained credible messengers provide ongoing behavior change and support to high-risk individuals:

  • Formulate and regularly update (daily, weekly, and quarterly) a plan of action that identifies a strategy for gathering information and assessing its accuracy and use.

  • Identify individuals in program area who are at highest risk for involvement in violence (based on established criteria) through personal connections and knowledge gained from spending time in the community.

  • Establish contact with highest-risk individuals and groups, developing a relationship, imparting messages rejecting violent behavior, and working to change behaviors.

  • Each worker establishes a caseload of highest-risk participants who agree to be part of the program. Workers will have a predetermined number of participants (typically 10 to 20) within the first 4 months of work.

  • For each participant, the worker conducts an assessment and develops a risk reduction plan for reducing the participant’s risk and shifting their behavior.

  • Workers meet with participants several times a week, including at critical times of need, developing a relationship and working to change behaviors through specific messaging designed to address issues faced by the participant.

  • Workers assist participants in dealing with a number of issues – such as education, employment, criminal justice, mental health, alcohol, drugs, trauma, reentry, and related life skills – through the utilization of existing social services.

  • Formal weekly staff meetings and regular supervisor reviews are conducted to discuss and update the current understanding of the violence in the community and the strategies for interrupting it.

Mobilize The Community To Change Norms

  • Workers engage leaders in the community as well as community residents, local business owners, faith leaders, service providers, and the high risk, conveying the message that the residents, groups, and the community do not support the use of violence.

  • Respond to Every Shooting – Whenever a shooting occurs, workers organize a response where dozens of community members voice their objection to the shooting

  • Organize Community – Workers coordinate with existing and establish new block clubs, tenant councils, and neighborhood associations to assist.

  • Spread Positive Norms – Program distributes materials and hosts events to covey the message that violence is not acceptable.

Cure Violence works to change community norms that allow, encourage and exacerbate violence in chronically violent neighborhoods to healthy norms that reject the use of violence.

  • Workers and program staff hold group sessions to discuss and make collective decisions about a community response to violence.

  • The goals of the response are to spread correct information, change behaviors and norms, and teach methods of reducing violence.

  • The specific groups are determined locally, but may include: Cure Violence staff, highest risk individuals, friends and family of the highest risk, residents, business owners, and others.

  • Credible messengers and volunteers spread messages that discourage the use of violence through public education materials such as posters and fliers.

  • Door-to-door canvassing, participating in events in the community, and distribution of materials through clergy, schools, and other community partners has proven effective.

  • Program staff host events and activities in the area, at times during late hours, to spread messages about rejecting the use of violence.

  • Program staff host responses to every shooting where community members come together and express the rejection of violent behavior and norms.