Shootings Fell Sharply in Neighborhoods Operating NYC-Funded “Cure Violence” Programs, New Study Shows

October 2, 2017


Expanded by Mayor de Blasio and the City Council in 2014, Cure Violence programs deploy “violence interrupters” to defuse conflicts before they escalate

Young men in two Cure Violence areas reported diminished willingness to resolve disputes with violence, increased trust in police

NEW YORK—A core component of the City’s approach to public safety – the use of “credible messengers” to identify and engage individuals most likely to be involved in gun violence and to defuse conflicts before they escalate – was associated with steep declines in shootings in two New York City neighborhoods and increased confidence in police, according to a comprehensive study by the Research & Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Beginning in 2014, Mayor de Blasio and the City Council invested $12.7 million to expand gun violence prevention strategies in some of the city’s hardest hit neighborhoods, which include Cure Violence programs as well as services like job programs, counseling and legal assistance. In an independent evaluation of the impact of these programs in East New York and the South Bronx, researchers found that gun violence and victimization decreased when compared to both baseline crime statistics and neighborhoods that have similar demographics and crime trends but no Cure Violence program. In a separate John Jay brief, also released today, the researchers found that young men in the program areas also reported diminished willingness to use violence to settle disputes and greater trust in law enforcement.

Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, said, “You don’t have to have a badge to contribute to public safety: every New Yorker as well as police have critical roles to play in keeping our neighborhoods secure. This study shows the positive impact Cure Violence programs are having, by building trust between law enforcement and New Yorkers and in reducing gun violence.”

Eric Cumberbatch, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “People who have previous justice system involvement and have turned their lives around to build their community, along with clergy and other community leaders, are important emissaries for violence prevention and conflict resolution. This program is showing us that community members are critical agents of peace.”

The study, Denormalizing Violence: The Effects of Cure Violence in the South Bronx and East New York, Brooklyn, found that there were fewer shooting victimizations (-15 percent) per year in the East New York catchment area, according to data from the NYPD, and also 50 percent fewer gunshot hospital admissions for residents from the East New York Cure Violence site, according to New York State Department of Health data. In the South Bronx catchment area, there were 63 percent fewer shooting victimizations in the neighborhood, and 37 percent fewer gunshot hospitalizations.

The study also found that young men living in neighborhoods with Cure Violence programs reported sharper reductions in their willingness to use violence to settle disputes, compared with young men without such programs. Surveys of participants found that the propensity to use violence in hypothetical scenarios declined over time and across all areas for serious disputes, but the decrease was steeper in neighborhoods with Cure Violence programs (33 percent vs. 12 percent). Propensity to use violence in petty disputes declined significantly only in Cure Violence areas (down 20 percent). The researchers prepared an additional brief, Repairing Trust: Young Men in Neighborhoods with Cure Violence Programs Report Growing Confidence in Police, which found that confidence in law enforcement rose 22 percent in Cure Violence areas versus 14 percent in comparison areas.

Cure Violence is an evidence-informed public health approach that identifies and engages individuals most likely to be involved in gun violence – especially when at risk of engaging in retaliatory shootings – and deploys interventions aimed at curbing that behavior before it occurs. Interventions take place before escalation turns to gun violence by employing “violence interrupters” – typically former gang members who have turned their lives around – to quell street disputes and link potential shooters to case management and supportive services.

Cure Violence is part of a broader approach to public safety developed by the Mayor’s Office and City Council. The Crisis Management System, a citywide initiative to reduce gun violence in the 17 precincts accounting for 51 percent of shootings citywide employs “credible messengers” – including longtime neighborhood leaders and people formerly in contact with the justice system – as well as providing services like job training, employment opportunities, arts, mental health and legal services to increase the likelihood of long-term violence reduction. This study adds to evidence of Cure Violence’s promise for reducing violence observed in earlier studies of smaller programs in Chicago and in Baltimore.

Concurrently, the administration is promoting fairness by targeting serious crimes while lightening the touch of enforcement for minor, non-violent offenses. For example, while gun arrests are up 19 percent in New York City, the number of stop-and-frisks has fallen 93 percent and criminal summonses are down 37 percent between 2013 and 2016. In addition, the City worked with District Attorneys and other partners to clear more than 644,000 warrants for minor, non-violent offenses, earlier this year.

Funding for Cure Violence was provided by the de Blasio Administration, the New York City Council and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New York City Mayor’s Office.

“Addressing violence as a health issue is a paradigm shift that is critical, not to winning an ideological battle, but to ensure that people are safe and that their children can thrive,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “This report highlights promising evidence that taking a health approach to violence reduction, which has been championed by the Cure Violence program, may be capable of creating safe and healthy communities for all New Yorkers.”

“The City Council is proud to continue its support for what was once a City Council pilot program in five high-need communities in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island, and is now the NYC Crisis Management System,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This recent study by John Jay College affirms the City Council’s belief in the approach of the NYC Crisis Management System. The City Council looks to continue its support for the Cure Violence programs and the other wrap around services that make up the NYC Crisis Management System.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, “John Jay’s study of the success of the Cure Violence program in East New York is no surprise to those of us who have been on the ground in this community. Our years-long call to fund these life-saving programs was finally answered by the de Blasio Administration, and the results are safer streets, better community-police relations, and healthier approaches to conflict resolution. Organizations like Man Up! Are setting a new standard for public safety and are making East New York a greater place to raise healthy children and families.”

New York State Assembly Member Latice Walker said, “Violence has always been a concern throughout New York City and the Cure Violence program is a start to diminishing a history of shootings and homicides in our communities. I commend Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council on initiating the Cure Violence program. The study from the Cure Violence program in the East New York neighborhood where the program was implemented saw rates of gunshots hospital admission drop by 50 percent and in the South Bronx neighborhood saw rates diminish by 37 percent.”

Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Chair of the Public Safety Committee said, “Gun violence is a public health epidemic that has had devastating effects on communities across our city. While even one shooting is too many, it is extremely heartening to see how successful our evidence based Cure Violence programs have been at sharply reducing gun violence in our most afflicted communities. I applaud Mayor de Blasio and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice for their commitment to taking a holistic approach to gun violence, including much needed wrap around services. This Administration has made substantial investments in our city’s public safety and I remain thankful for their efforts.”

“As gun violence remains a national epidemic, the importance of interrupting such violence on a local level, in our neighborhoods, has never been more evident. The successes of Cure Violence have saved lives, and shown that with enough resources and commitment to the cause, we can have a meaningful impact on the amount of violence in our communities. Cure Violence is one essential component of the Crisis Management System (CMS) we’ve implemented here in New York City, one which highlights the need to address gun violence as a public health issue. The crisis in our localities demands federal and state response in addition to our own commitments in the city. I hope that in light of CMS’ successes, there will be an increase in devotion of resources across all levels of government to expand efforts as we continue to find and implement local solutions that can save lives,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, co-Chair of the Task Force to Combat Gun Violence.

Ife Charles, Coordinator of Anti-Violence Programs the Center for Court Innovation, which manages the South Bronx Cure Violence program, said, “Public Safety is not just a you, I or them problem. It is a we – an us! It is a collective of consistencies and collaborative efforts of all within communities. The safety of our communities cannot be held on the shoulders of any one person. Cure Violence’s use of engaging the very fabric of communities; the disconnected, previously justice involved, faith based, residents, community based organizations and city agencies to work towards healing and building healthy and safe communities is what contributes to its success. Cure Violence and the New York Crisis Management System working together is an example of the us.”

Andre T. Mitchell, Founder and Executive Director of Man Up! Inc., in East New York, said, “This evaluation confirms for all us who introduced this model and serve within the Crisis Management System that non-traditional approaches to crime reduction in this city is very possible if not extremely necessary. The Cure Violence model, at its core, proves that we can use a public health approach to create public safety.”