Meta-Post: Attempts to Reducing Street Violence

These weeks discussion is on street violence and the increase in gang member numbers within Chicago. Many posters mention how the violence rate has gone up, as well as the death rates. The program CeaseFire is an attempt to step in between the fights and conflicts by using former gang members, called the Interrupters.
The OnlySolutionIsLove tells of two different approaches that have been taken to reduce violence: environmental steps and steps in intervening through education. Acaawesome and Flysquirreleater were both skeptical of how well education would work as sometimes it is hard to get through to youth or get them to change their ways.
There is also much talk of how the spread of violence is similar to the spread of a disease such as AIDS, which is the suggestion by Slutkin. This is the approach CeaseFire is taking with the aid of the Interrupters. Though this approach is hard to tell whether or not it is very effective, it seems that the crime rates have gone down in Chicago. Blueowls suggests that further steps could be to figure out what else causes violence and created programs to help target these issues. Homosapienswalkingwonders gives the example of another group that takes a different approach.
Overall, this approach to reducing crime rates seems to be fairly effective, in my opinion, and is a very interesting angle to take. I think using the example of the Interrupters is a good way to get through to youth. I think all of the posters seemed to have fairly good opinions on the topic as well, which shone through in what they wrote and in the comments. I also thought it was interesting to see the other programs and areas that are working on solving the same issue of street violence.

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Meta Post — Guides out of the Dark

All of the launch posts this week really looked into how the Kotlowitz article introduced the CeaseFire program. With a program looking at inner-city violence in the perspective of a disease, all of the first posts looked at different ways this is just the first step to stopping the violent acts. Allyouneedislove looked at it as a building block and yellowsubmarine2 called it as a start to educating people.
It was really in the comments that we see analysis of this program. By comparing this program to others in Chicago, funfetticakemix notes “these groups are striving towards making the ‘violence is not the answer’ concept a reality for kids who grow up learning otherwise by example.” This author really looks into how teaching by example is a great option for the youth in violent neighborhoods to get out of the path of gangs. On the other hand, flyingsquirreleater critiques the program by addressing that other matters are important to stopping the violence.
This week really focuses on how community and example play an impact into the growth of an area. Without guides or efforts to stop problems from growing and changing habits earlier rather than later, areas can quickly fall into hard times. I feel that the big idea of this week’s readings was best put by allyouneedislove, “Ceasefire is one brick, one step, which will eventually lead to the end of the unnecessary street violence,” and by homosapienswalkingwonders, “On its own it cannot stop all violence, but it has definitely prevented some violence and helped improve the lives of people who may have otherwise been prone to committing acts of violence.”

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Meta Post: Education and Public Health

After going through the readings and the blog posts and comments, it was evident that all of us seemed to take a lot from the Kotlowitz article. Yellowsubmarine2 made a very interesting point in extending the already-present idea of public health as it relates to violence by saying that what we’re dealing with is also a mental health issue, citing references to PTSD in kids exposed to violence at a young age. Moreover, acaawesome13 also brings in the idea of a public health approach to violence, iterating the similarities between transmission of a communicable disease and violence in the community. However, one point that acaawesome13 makes that very clearly underscores all of the bloggers’ implicit hesitations is that “Yes, it does take education, but education is sometimes not enough. How can leaders ensure that their material will be taken to heart and that the youth will apply what they learn?”

Present in all of the bloggers’ entries is the appreciation and enlightened understanding that violence, when approached through the lens of public health, might just be able to be “interrupted” effectively. The vehicle by which most of the bloggers agree this is possible is education at the source by trying to positively affect the behavior of young children by demonstrating what is and is not acceptable. However, again, we see the general thought process in each approach that this might be considered as a very idealistic approach. Is there truly a way in which education will be taken to heart? How do we develop that kind of education and implement it in a way that is continuously effective? Most of the bloggers seemed very interested in the idea of managing violence through public health education, which is becoming an increasingly pertinent issue with the field of public health exploding with innovation and new advancements.

The general trends throughout these blog posts have been a genuine appreciation of this new public health approach because it actually shows progress in handling this rampant problem. There also appears to be an implicit trend throughout every blog post: the most effective approach has been one that involves the community. Stopping violence cannot be an action taken by the few and imposed on the many. The most effective approach has been and will continue to be community-wide involvement.

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Meta Post: Interrupting the Threat of Violence

                This week, we focused on the problem of gang violence, particularly in cities like Chicago where it runs rampant, in regards to the Interrupters, a group of former gang members who work to decrease this epidemic through their good example. Some of the solutions suggested in the article in order to change behavior in the youth were education, changing the sort of exposure these youth have to potential violent situations (through the good example of people like the Interrupters), and making it clear that certain behaviors are unacceptable. Acaawesome13 questioned whether educational resources would really make a difference, and essentially asked the question, “Who is to say that the youth will truly by changed through extra classes or if this information will even stay in the forefronts of their minds?” Flyingsquirreleater furthered this point by noting a Carl Harris article that demonstrated that youth will probably not be too affected by educational classes on the subject because risky behavior tends to run through their veins, and they may feel “untouchable or able to live through anything.” Yellowsubmarine2 highlighted that programs like CeaseFire can be helpful because they work to change the mindsets within the youth themselves by exposing them to good examples like the Interrupters. Youth can learn that violence is not the answer when angry disputes come about. They made a great point that children are more receptive to the types of behavior they are exposed to in social situations than are any other age group, as well. Funfetticakemix offered more information on a group called Family Empower which furthers this concept of showing children that violence is not the answer. TheOnlySolutionIsLove maintained the point that programs working to  decrease violence must change how the youth view certain behaviors. These children must be taught that certain behaviors are absolutely unacceptable in order for them to be truly motivated to step away from violent actions. They mentioned how this cannot be the only step (or “brick,” to use their own words) in paving the way towards a safer community. Homosapienswalkingwonders provided readers with another organization, Homebody Industries, which helps former gang members move on from the cycle of violence. Finally, Blueowls22 brought up a very good point, asking our readers the question: How can we terminate violence at its roots? They suggested offering drug-rehabilitation as well as job-training programs and similar social services. Overall, it seems like from these blog posts what has been done so far is only one step in the process of decreasing violence in our cities. What must be changed is not necessarily the information or formal education these youths are receiving in the area of reducing violence, but perhaps a “life” education like that of changing their mentality of socially acceptable behaviors as well as the good examples provided by the Interrupters. With all of this in mind, change can truly begin and violence can be reduced for the youth in our country.

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Launch Post: CeaseFire-One Brick, One Step

In his New York Times Article titled, “Blocking the Transmission of Violence,” author Alex Kotlowitz explores the aims and outcomes of CeaseFire, a “gang-intervention program” founded by Gary Slutkin in Chicago.  Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist and physician who worked in Africa with infectious diseases, draws many comparisons between violence and infections like TB and AIDS.  He therefore argues that “the treatment ought to mimic the regimen applied to these diseases.”  Slutkin asserts that “for violence, we’re trying to interrupt the next event, the next transmission, the next violent activity” in order to alleviate the violence that has recently plagued the streets of Chicago.  Because of this, the men and women that compose CeaseFire, people who in one way or another have been involved with the violence on the streets, are referred to as “The Interrupters.”

The article argues that there have been two schools of thought regarding the reduction of violence, “one [that] focuses on environmental factors” while “the other tries to influence behavior by introducing school-based curricula.”  Slutkin however, abandons these prior solutions and instead, opts for a third: one that responds in a way similar to how one would try to contain an infectious disease.  Slutkin “hopes to alter behavior and what’s considered socially acceptable” because he believes that “punishment doesn’t drive behavior…copying and modeling the social expectations of you peers is what drives your behavior.”  In applying this method to alleviating street violence, CeaseFire involves “The Interrupters” who were described by Daniel Webster as “guys out there…[with] some prestige and reputation.”  Webster believes that “the hope is that they start to change the culture so that you can retain your status, retain your manliness and be able to walk away from the events where all expectation were that you were supposed to respond with lethal force.”

While it is difficult to measure the successes or failures of CeaseFire, it cannot be denied that the number of shootings have declined around Chicago.  According to one study by independent researchers hired by the Justice Department, “in six of the seven neighborhoods examined, CeaseFire’s efforts reduced the number of shootings or attempted shootings by 16 to 27 percent more than it had declined in comparable neighborhoods.”  While these numbers do provide a sense of hope, I do not believe that CeaseFire alone will solve the tragedy of violence.  Instead, cities must look at a variety of angles and work together alongside law enforcement, victims and their families, and previous perpetrators to end this senseless violence.  As Dorothy Day once stated, “they cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.”  I believe that Ceasefire is one brick, one step, which will eventually lead to the end of the unnecessary street violence.

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Launch Post: Violence—The Ever-Increasing Epidemic

This article Blocking the Transmission of Violence, by Alex Kotlowitz, brings to light the troublesome problem of gang violence in Chicago. Not only is this violence the reason behind numerous deaths of the youth of Chicago, it is also a steadily increasing problem. The leaders of the city are now facing the challenge of how to stop this violence from continuing to increase, while also decreasing the number of youth involved, thus hoping for the decrease of deaths. Many tactics have been experimented with, but have yet to show the desired results. Now, however, a very new approach has been proposed and is being utilized. Studies have shown that gang violence has very similar transmission qualities as diseases such as tuberculosis and AIDS. If this is the case, then why not treat them as such? Because of this, many experts are applying what they know about the curbing of these diseases to the streets of Chicago. This does bring to question the accuracy of this technique. Is it really going to be effective? In some ways it does seem like a stretch. The article put it this way, “The way public-health doctors think of curing disease when there are no drug treatments is by changing behavior.” So the real tactic is changing behavior. How is this done? Education. This is a very intriguing approach. It sounds like a very effective method on the surface, but somehow almost seems too easy. Education is one thing, but actually getting the youth to believe you and change their behavior is different. Yes, it does take education, but education is sometimes not enough. How can leaders ensure that their material will be taken to heart and that the youth will apply what they learn? Can this behavior really be changed simply through extra classes and courses taken? Or will these be overlooked or stored in the back of the youth’s mind, as many other lessons from high school are? Whatever the case may be, these situations have to change. There has been too much death because of the rapidly growing gangs. The numbers and statistics can attest to this. As far as success goes, the organization CeaseFire puts it honestly enough, “It can be hard to measure the success — or the failure — of public-health programs, especially violence- prevention efforts.”

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Launch Post: Called the Interrupters For a Reason

This weeks readings were about the Interrupters, a group of former gang members working to protect their Chicago communities from violence they once participated in. The Interrupters partner with an organization named CeaseFire, which believe violence is similar to the spread of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be comparable. The founder of CeaseFire, Gary Slutkin, is an epidemiologist and physician who has worked to combat infectious diseases in Africa for ten years. He believes that with diseases such as AIDS and violence, it is imperative to treat the most infected, thus stopping the infection at its source.

Applying this to the Interrupters, they intervene in conflicts before the fights turn aggressive in order to reduce violence overall. The “Violence Interrupters” as they are known, have credibility on the streets because of their past. If young teens can see the former gang members diffusing seemingly minor spats, they will be less inclined to participate in the violence. This, in turn, will combat the mentality that violence is necessary for vengeance.

One thing I found really interesting was in the article “I See Everything Through This Tragedy” by Alex Kotlowitz. Children that are exposed to the street violence that Interrupters are working to combat, experience the same kind of post-traumatic stress disorder found in war soldiers. The only difference is that the children receive no resolution, they are constantly surround by the stimulation, whereas there is some hope of escape for soldiers. But when psychologists ask children exposed to these acts of violence to draw something, they draw an idyllic scene like a white picket fence or people holding hands. I wonder if it is because they have trained themselves to be numb to the pain surround them or are drawing a life they imagine for themselves? What can we do to help these children? And Slutkin, the founder of CeaseFire, wants to change the thoughts about violence from a moral issue to a public health one. So how can we shift public opinion about violence from good person vs. bad person to healthy vs. unhealthy?

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