Cure Violence: The Remedy for Communities Under Fire

By Eddie Carroll, Groupon Writer

For the men and women of Cure Violence, a day’s work is rarely completed behind a desk, or in a conference room. Take Tio Hardiman, for instance. Tio is the director of CeaseFire Illinois, one of an ever-growing number of branches in the Cure Violence tree.

On a spring night in 2012, Tio found himself at a familiar impasse on Chicago’s West Side. He had received a call about a young man who was dragged off the street by a larger group. When he found the group behind a building, the young man was being held at gunpoint. As Tio approached the scene, the gunman turned toward him.

“If you keep meddlin’ in my business,” the gunman told Tio, “I’m gonna put you to sleep.” He repeated: “I’m gonna put you to sleep.”

Tio stood tall. “You don’t need to kill him,” he told the group above the snarls of their pit bulls.

At first, his pleas fell on deaf ears, one of the men going so far as to threaten Tio’s life instead of laying down his weapon. Yet, after several minutes of intense, but controlled interaction, Tio’s words broke through. He walked away from the situation unharmed, beside him the young man who just moments before had just moments to live.

Thanks to Cure Violence and its web of affiliated programs, such as CeaseFire Illinois, scenes like this are ending not in blood, but in resolution.

But how? The organization views violence as a disease: an affliction upon a community that needs to be detected, interrupted, and ultimately remedied. Cure Violence is not a street intervention program, but rather, a public health model. It utilizes constant data analysis and evaluation to improve its chances of success.

In place of doctors and medications, though, stands Cure Violence’s team of trained “interrupters” and community coordinators. These are individuals who have experienced community violence firsthand, and have even played a role in it. Their role now: atone for their turbulent pasts by changing the present for the better. They do so by mediating conflicts, extinguishing volatile situations, and, in cases such as Tio’s, putting their own lives on the line for the greater good of the community. In fact, their work was the basis for the critically acclaimed PBS Frontline 2011 documentary, The Interrupters, which follows the day-to-day duties of three Cure Violence team members for an entire year.

The Cure Violence team is now on the front lines in more than a dozen U.S. cities, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. In Chicago, CeaseFire has helped reduce the number of shootings in the Englewood neighborhood a total of 41%. In Baltimore, another Cure Violence affiliate, Safe Streets, was responsible for an average of 35 fewer shootings at each of its sites over the course of a nine-year study by Johns Hopkins University. That effectiveness has led to the spread of the Cure Violence model internationally, including to notoriously violent regions in Kenya, South Africa, and Iraq.

Sometimes, though, effectiveness can be measured in more than just data. A few months after Tio Hardiman had interrupted that near-deadly situation on Chicago’s west side, he was waiting in a McDonalds drive-thru line. The driver behind him began honking relentlessly. Tio got out of his own car to investigate before quickly realizing that the person honking was the gunman who had threatened his life that night a few months back.

Unexpectedly, the man stuck his fist out the car window as a sign of solidarity, and in his own, solemn way, asked Tio: “How you doin’ big brother?”

Here’s some recent data from CeaseFire, Cure Violence’s Illinois affiliate. This data was recorded during the first three months of 2013:

• Homicides are down 48% in CeaseFire zones
• Shootings are down 44% in those same zones
• Team members have mediated a total of 107 conflicts, and have logged 9,000 hours of activity in their communities
• As an organization, CeaseFire has deferred 249 individuals to employment

To donate and support the work of Cure Violence, go to our national campaign on Groupon starting Thursday, April 25 through Wednesday, May 1. Every $700 raised provides a training for a group of 20 Violence Interrupters and Outreach Workers across the U.S. in cities where the Cure Violence is replicated including Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, New Orleans, and Chicago.

Eddie Carroll is excited about the Editorial team’s partnership with Cure Violence and thanks Cure Violence for making the communities in Chicago safer.

Check out interviews by Groupon’s Editorial team with Violence Interrupters as part of our ongoing partnership with Cure Violence here. Special thanks to Ben Nissen from Editorial’s video team for producing the campaign video.

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