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A Proven Way to Reduce Violence in Cities

No, it's not more police. From Oakland to Newark, community violence intervention programs get results, and one researcher says they could be even more effective if fully supported.

“Non-Violence,” also known as The Knotted Gun, by artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, at the United Nations in New York. (Photo by Thomas Halfmann / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

You can’t have public safety without the public.

That’s the tagline from one leader of a violence-intervention program in Newark, New Jersey. Intervention programs exist all over the country, including in Oakland, where the city reduced gun homicides by over 52% in the span of six years. But little is understood about the profession, with the very first research study of workers released this year in Chicago. 

In this episode of the podcast, Next City Executive Director Lucas Grindley talks with correspondent Emily Nonko about her reporting on a profession sometimes presented as an alternative to the police. We also meet Dr. Shani Buggs, whose research shows that gun violence is a place-based epidemic disproportionately affecting Americans of color. She advocates for intervention programs staffed by people who have experienced violence and who deeply understand the trauma. 

“Some of the motivation for the workers, the professionals, is that they want to give back to the communities that they previously wreaked havoc in and caused harm in,” says Buggs. “But it's also a recognition that the individuals who produce violence and the individuals who are victims are loved ones. They’re brothers, they’re sisters, they’re fathers, they’re daughters, they’re best friends. And so it's really recognizing that these are people — on both sides of the weapon — and people who were harmed and people who deserve love and support and resources in order to ultimately save lives.”

Listen to this episode below or subscribe to Next City’s podcast on Apple or Spotify.

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