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.