Investing in OAG’s Violence Interruption Program

The District is in the midst of a truly disturbing spike in homicides, up 64% percent over this time last year. To help save lives, last week, AG Racine and Mayor Bowser announced a $6 million investment in strategies to reduce gun violence and keep District residents safe. As part of this funding which resulted from the AltaGas-Washington Gas merger negotiated by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), $2 million will go to fund OAG’s violence interruption program—Cure the Streets—through July of 2020.

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AG Racine and Mayor Bowser at press conference announcing investments in public safety initiatives.

Cure the Streets was launched last summer in two pilot sites with some of the highest incidents of shootings and homicides in the city. The program is based on the Cure Violence model, which has been successful in reducing shootings and killings by 20 to 60 percent in more than 100 cities nationwide and globally. This program employs local, credible individuals with deep ties to the neighborhood called “violence interrupters” who de-escalate situations and avert potentially fatal incidents. Cure the Streets uses a proven, public-health approach that treats violence like a disease, focusing on:

  1. Interrupting violence;
  2. Identifying and treating those at highest risk for committing violent crime; and
  3. Changing community ideas around the normalization of violence.

In less than 6 months, Cure the Streets is seeing some positive early results. Since the program began, there have been zero homicides in the pilot sites and fewer nonfatal shootings in comparison to surrounding areas. Violence Interrupters have also held more than 62 community events, Safe Passage walks for neighborhood schools, and held a Thanksgiving Day of Service.

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Violence Interrupters at an appreciation dinner for OAG's Cure the Streets program.

Community members also have expressed how much safer they feel in their homes and communities. One Ward 5 resident wrote OAG to say: “I am a single mother who has young boys…It’s a blessing seeing those yellow shirts early [worn by violence interrupters] in the morning and late at night in my neighborhood. It makes me and my family feel safe and protected.” Other residents have echoed this message and expressed that families are now more likely to let their children play outdoors than they have been before.

While these early returns show progress, this much-needed funding will help OAG continue implementing Cure the Streets with fidelity and accountability and ensure we are able to build a body of evidence that will help determine how this model can work for the District.