Feb 22, 2021 - News

Cure Violence courts Des Moines as city sees rise in homicides

Red first aid cross made out of guns

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Chicago-based Cure Violence is assessing Des Moines as a possible new site for its global program to reduce violence in major cities, Charlie Ransford, the group's senior director of science & policy, told Axios.

Why it matters: Des Moines homicides have increased in recent years — 21 in 2020 compared to 14 cases in 2019 — and the organization's approach has proven effective at reducing crimes like shootings.

The org approaches violence as a health epidemic that can be addressed using disease-control methods.

  • The program was developed more than two decades ago by Gary Slutkin, former head of the World Health Organization’s Intervention Development Unit.
  • It is currently implemented by local partners in at least 25 cities.
  • Urban Dreams is one group that may work as a Des Moines partner, the nonprofit group's leader Izaah Knox told Axios.

How it works: "Violence interrupters" — often local residents and former perpetrators — are hired to do much of the work, including:

  • Detect conflicts and diffuse tense situations to help prevent retaliations after shootings.
  • Identify people who are at highest risk and assist them.
  • Organize widespread community outreach to respond to every shooting.

What’s next: Cure Violence officials are completing an assessment of Des Moines, Ransford said, including a review of police data.

  • The City could decide whether or not to move forward at its meeting this morning at 7:30am. Join here if you want to weigh in.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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