Des Moines vows to set better violence interruption benchmarks
Benchmarks for a violence reduction program launched last year were overly ambiguous, according to a recently-published annual report.
Why it matters: DSM homicides increased in 2022 from 2021 and police confiscated a record number of guns.
- The city allocated $445K for the program in Dec. 2021 and will provide at least $300K more in the 2023-'24 fiscal year.
Catch up fast: The Violence Interruption Project (VIP) is a partnership with Cure Violence, a Chicago-based program that says it has helped some cities reduce shootings by more than 30% in a year.
- Local nonprofit Creative Visions was hired to run VIP, which approaches violence as a health epidemic by using "violence interrupters" to respond to conflicts and help prevent things like retaliations after shootings.
- They work with high-risk youth to improve decision-making skills through counseling, activities or providing mental or physical care.
State of play: Specific goals were initially created to assess the program, measuring benchmarks like days without violent incidents.
- But shortly after DSM awarded the VIP contract, Cure Violence determined the program's focus should be on Drake-area neighborhoods.
- VIP staff shared concerns with city officials that the targeted areas would not encompass the full scope of high crime probability, according to the report.
What's happening: In its first year, VIP responded to more than three dozen incidents and was able to diffuse most without violence, per the report.
- The team also responded to multiple shootings, including some outside its targeted area.
- And it launched a program at Meyer Hall to work with incarcerated youth.
Reality check: DSM children as young as 10 are carrying guns.
- In one case in the report, a mother approved of her 12-year-old having a gun, and VIP officials later confirmed through its sources that there had been a contract hit out on his life.
What they're saying: Factors that lead to violence are often complex and influenced by issues beyond the immediate control of local officials, DSM Police Sgt. Paul Parizek tells Axios.
- It's also not always clear what or how violence prevention efforts influenced outcomes, he says.
Yes, but: Police believe VIP has succeeded in reaching some youth and reduced risks of retaliation in some cases, Parizek noted.
- VIP will increase mediation among youths and work more closely with schools in coming months, Creative Visions CEO Ako Abdul-Samad tells Axios.
The bottom line: Moving forward, specific metrics need to be determined to help substantiate the VIP's work and instill community confidence in the program, the report concludes.
More Des Moines stories
No stories could be found
Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.