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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2 Responses to Launch Post: CeaseFire-One Brick, One Step

  1. blueowls22 says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post and I definitely agree with some of the points you made. The idea of Ceasefire being one brick or one step in fighting street violence is very intriguing and should be further explored. One thing that I though was interesting about Ceasefire is that it only seeks to stop the violence, not necessarily the problems causing the violence. I think that the next steps or bricks would be to develop programs that similarly pinpoint the individual different causes of violence and seek to terminate them. One might suggest better drug-rehab facilities, job training programs, better psychological services or post-prision integration programs to name a few. One thing however that I think should be clarified in your blog post is the statistic used in the last paragraph. Although those numbers do look promising and you did mention that it is difficult to measure Ceasefire’s effectiveness, no outlying factors are addressed that could have contributed to this decrease in crime nor are we given information about how many “interruptions” there were or how many of the situations interrupted ended in violence for example. To use this sort of statistic to make an argument we must be sure that there is direct cause and effect instead of just a correlation. To use one of my favorite statistics phrases, “correlation does not imply causation”. All in all I feel that you address well the very real dilemma of Ceasefire; by itself it will not end street violence. So, changes need to be made in other areas so that one day the streets will be free from violence and the cycle will stop.

  2. I believe that TheOnlySolutionIsLove did a great job of laying out the schools of thought. The first focuses on environmental factors and the second focuses on education. They then present the third idea which is from Slutkin. It is a response that would treat gang violence in a similar way to an infectious disease. CeaseFire involves “The Interrupters” who do what their name implies; they try to interrupt the gang violence by altering behavior.
    TheOnlySolutionIsLove then goes on to say that CeaseFire is only the first step of what needs to be many steps. I agree that it is a great start but cities need to address a variety of factors that lead to violence. I really like when TheOnlySolutionIsLove says “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” . I totally agree that this needs to be a community effort which involves not only law enforcement but also those who are involved with the crimes and those affected by the crimes.
    In high school, I once listened to a speaker by the name of Father Greg Boyle S.J.. He started an organization titled Homeboy Industries (http://www.homeboyindustries.org/) which serves men and women who were formerly in gangs by offering them free services and programs. It is a wonderful organization that I could not help but think while reading these blog posts. One of the main goals of this organization is to help these people obtain jobs and move on from their darker pasts. To connect this to TheOnlySolutionIsLove’s post, Homeboy Industries is another great step. 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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