The Biden Administration’s $100 billion American Rescue Plan includes funds for a variety of initiatives in its framework from addressing climate change to free preschool for children. But one of its components, violence intervention, is something the White House has been strategically targeting in an effort to reduce violent crime, which disproportionately affects Black and Brown communities.
The “Build Back Better” plan has called for $5 billion for violence prevention, promising more than eight years of funding for community violence-prevention programs. In October, the White House announced its Community Violence Intervention (CVI) Collaborative strategy which brings together multiple cities to use the funding for its goals.
“It's a cohort of 16 jurisdictions, from Miami to Baltimore to Chicago. It really demonstrates how wide and broad the desire for support and the commitment to invest in prevention is,” said Chiraag Baines, White House Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for Racial Justice and Equity. “We know that Black and brown communities bear the most significant share of this issue. Black boys and young men ages 15 to 34 are just 2% of the population but are 37% of homicide victims.”
Rather than looking at gun violence as a criminal problem to be handled by law enforcement and courts, these programs consider gun violence as a public health issue that can’t be considered without understanding economic instability and trauma as root causes for the problem in the first place.
“Violence is the leading cause of death for black men under 45. That's why it's quite intentional that these programs distribute dollars to those who are best equipped to deploy them,” said Baines.
This proposal would bring in people working in violence interrupter programs. These are often people whose personal experiences have led them to work with people in their own communities. Many bring street credibility because they often have been incarcerated or have past gun violence experience. They form relationships with key people and often know how to look for potential disputes.
If needed, they’ll bring the necessary parties together, sometimes even putting themselves between people to resolve differences before anyone even picks up a gun.Interrupter programs often steer people to social services that can also be helpful in preventing violence.
The concept is not new and has seen success in cities like Chicago, Boston and New York, where a program called Cure Violence was proven to reduce shootings by 40 percent.
But these programs don’t succeed in the long term if officials don’t commit to supporting them. That has sometimes been the larger problem when politicians do not want to fund these programs. Baines says gun violence is estimated to cause $280 billion in damage each year.
One of the avenues to this prevention is using hospital-based programming. “Community organizations that run these hospital based violence prevention programs, where they meet with you shortly after you've been shot and try to interrupt the cycles of retaliation that we so often see can receive funds,” Baines explained.
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Congress will still ultimately need to approve the spending as part of the Build Back Better Act. While some GOP representatives argue the president’s overall plan gives too much money to projects not based on infrastructure, Baines says the support for these community and grassroots organizations is non-partisan and widespread.
“It is a popular approach, because it's data driven. And it's evidence based, it works. You know, these kinds of strategies are what drove a 71% drop in gun violence in Richmond, California, from 2007 to 2016. These are strategies that are shown to reduce by 30% gun violence in Chicago.”
The Build Back Better Act still has to go before the Senate for final passage. It’s expected that this provision has a good chance to be considered as part of the law that the Senate will consider.