Justin Ennis/Flickr / https://n.pr/3IhhoL8
Starting next spring, the Cure the Streets violence prevention program will operate in 10 sites across the District.
Justin Ennis/Flickr / https://n.pr/3IhhoL8
Cure the Streets, a D.C. based violence interruption program run through the Office of the Attorney General, will expand to four additional neighborhoods next spring. The expansion, facilitated by a significant increase in city funding for non-police methods of violence interruption, comes amidst a nationwide increase in homicides that has deeply affected the District.
"There are four new sites, bringing the total to 10 in the District of Columbia — when in July 2017 there were none," said D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine in an interview. "I think what they represent is an acknowledgement and understanding, certainly from the community, that alternatives to enhancing public safety need to be explored and invested in."
The Cure the Streets program is still in what the OAG considers a pilot phase. It currently operates at six sites in Wards 5, 7, and 8 and employs about 60 people across the city. Outreach workers and violence interrupters with Cure the Streets are asked to establish relationships with people who they deem as most likely to be involved in gun violence — either as a shooter, or as a victim. They then try to intervene in neighborhood conflicts and help people resolve them without violence.
In the aftermath of shootings, they try to prevent retaliation. The OAG keeps a dashboard of data on its website, which says that Cure the Streets teams have organized hundreds of mediations between rival groups since they began working in the District.
The expansion will bring two new sites to Ward 8, in Congress Heights and Historic Anacostia/Fairlawn. It will also bring Cure the Streets to neighborhoods in Ward 1, 4, 5, and 6, with sites in Brightwood Park/Petworth/Columbia Heights and a site that encompasses the Sursum Corda neighborhood and Ivy City.
The sites were chosen through a months-long process, according to the OAG.
"Included in that analysis was data from Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, MPD incident reports and shot spotter data, as well community intelligence regarding gun violence and ongoing neighborhood conflicts," said a press release from the office. Senior members of the OAG's violence reduction unit, which manages Cure the Streets, said the program focuses on areas where there are established groups and "crews" involved in gun violence, because responding to other forms of violence is not where the program's strengths lie.
The OAG will choose community-based organizations to run the sites, and the office is accepting applications until Jan. 12. The sites will be up and running by the spring and will each have about 10 people on staff, according to senior members of the team that manages Cure the Streets.
In the past, Cure the Streets got some financial backing through the D.C. Council, but it was not recurring. The majority of the program's funding came from the OAG's Litigation Support Fund and the revenues it received from settlements on behalf of the District. This year, Cure the Streets received an unprecedented $4.1 million budget increase — more than it has ever received in the past. That investment was in part made possible by an influx of federal funds — and it comes at a time when community based organizations say investment in the neighborhoods most affected by gun violence is sorely needed.
Racine told DCist/WAMU that he sees the funding as a sign that "the residents of the District of Columbia are clamoring for violence interruption and other alternatives to reduce violence in the city."
Two weeks ago, D.C. surpassed last year's homicide count with more than a month left in 2021 to go. Over two hundred people have died by homicide in D.C. this year, representing a 16-year-high. The increase has hit Black neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River particularly hard, but has been felt across the city. In D.C., homicides have increased each year since 2017.
Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George said that she and other community leaders have long asked for more violence prevention resources, particularly in the Kennedy Street area of the Ward. When D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's office announced the locations for her administration's gun violence prevention initiative — Building Blocks DC — early this year, Lewis George expressed her concern with Ward 4's exclusion. She doubled down on that request in the wake of a September shooting that killed three people and injured three more in Brightwood Park.
"The vast majority of gun violence we see in our community stems from personal disputes and conflicts between neighboring crews," Lewis George wrote on social media on Monday, after the OAG announced its new sites. "Thankfully, we will soon have a dedicated Cure the Streets team working day in and day out in Petworth and Brightwood Park to forge trust, resolve conflict, prevent retaliation, and build lasting peace in our neighborhoods."
"I'm grateful to DC Attorney General Karl Racine and his team for following the data and stepping up to bring these much-needed resources to Ward 4," Lewis George added.
Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau also applauded the expansion, which will bring violence interrupters into parts of Columbia Heights. "We must continue our focus on evidence-based models for violence prevention in our communities in order to address violence in both the immediate- and long-term," she said in a press release.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.