Not only does violence negatively impact the financial opportunities of those directly involved in a conflict—hospital costs, medical treatment, lost wages, missed opportunities, investigation and court costs—but it also hinders an entire communities’ potential to grow.

Firearm injuries exhibit higher costs than any other type of injury and we are all held responsible for paying the dues. About $100 billion a year is spent on firearm assaults, a cost of roughly $1.2 million per shooting, with the average medical cost to treat a victim estimated to be $45,000.  The total criminal justice costs per homicide are estimated to be $183,000 with an additional $35,600 for each firearm assault.

The psychological costs of violence equally contribute to this economic quicksand. Children who witness violence are more likely to perform poorly in school, suffer cognitive and emotional disorders, lack motivation and have increased susceptibility to violence themselves. Anxiety and grief from such tragedies further result in lost hours, lost wages and limited opportunities.

Those infected by violence find it difficult to break the cycle, whether they are struggling with societal judgments and limitations or a lack of opportunity to embark on a new path. If you have been convicted of a felony, you can be barred from jobs, housing, food stamps, and the right to vote. Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow” explains that more than 70% of released prisoners end up back in custody within three years and a majority of those individuals are re-incarcerated within 3 months of their release. The cost of violence for surrounding communities is often the most unexpected. These consequences are often unaddressed but are devastating enough to serve as inspiration for communities to begin the fight against violence.

Even more damaging than immediate price tag of this epidemic is impact violence has on the economic potential of neighborhoods that have been plagued by the contagion. Most communities suffering from high violence epidemics are also economically depressed; they are riddled with abandoned buildings, shuttered businesses, and a lack of job opportunities. Businesses are afraid to invest in a neighborhood with limited buying potential or security, insurance rates are high, and potential for success is low. This affects neighboring towns and cities at large, and needs to be addressed by those within the communities as well as those outside of the communities. Decreasing violence would lead to increased tax revenues from improved housing values and business growth, but before this can happen, the communities need to be safe.

The 2012 Global Peace Index provided by The Institute for Economics and Peace illustrates the extensive ways in which peace can positively transform a region through asset-based community development and strength organizing. Paul Collier explains in a TED talk on rebuilding a broken nation that there is no quick security fix, which incarceration or new elections aim to produce. The reality is that we need to reverse the sequence. After years of stagnation and decline, the mentality has to shift from zero sum to positive sum before you can make any progress. In order to build prosperity, we need security in place, and we need to recognize the interdependence of 3 key actors: (1) we need a security council (like Cure Violence’s interrupters) to build an area’s security, (2) we need donors to commit to at least a decade’s worth of financial support, and (3) we need a post-conflict organization to instigate economic reform and a genuine inclusion agenda that incorporates actors from both inside and outside of the community to reach a solution.

We know that we cannot intrude on a community and expect it to change from our advice. To this aim, Cure Violence works with the right community partners in the right communities to reduce violence. For Cure Violence, the focus is to stop the violence to foster community redevelopment, economic opportunity and new growth. The cycle can drastically shift from a system of contagious violence to a movement of contagious peace with the right approach.

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