Finding a ‘cure’: International anti-violence program could come to Peoria

Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 5:57 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - The Peoria City/County Health Department believes they might have a solution for street violence.

Monday morning, the violence prevention organization Cure Violence Global held its first ‘101′ presentation for the public at the Peoria Public Library’s main branch downtown. It’s a process three years in the making, with the Health Department first reaching out for an evaluation back in 2019.

CVG’s CEO Dr. Fredrick Echols says violence needs to be treated as a ‘disease,’ addressing it as a public health crisis. Just like any other threat to wellbeing, he says it’s going to take the whole community to solve it.

“At the end of the day, everyone should be afforded the opportunity to live a decent quality of life, and that’s what we’re hoping to bring to the city of Peoria.”

Around for over 20 years, the organization conducts independent evaluations to speak to the efficacy of their efforts in major cities impacted by violent activity. According to their findings, some jurisdictions saw up to 70% reductions in firearm-related incidents thanks to what they refer to as ‘violence interrupters’. In others, nearly all retaliation events were eliminated. While easy to find in major American cities, their reach also spreads around the globe to continents like Europe and Africa.

To them, violence is not only a public health issue, but a disease. To overcome it, they challenge all facets of the community to unite their efforts, including religious and elected officials, academic professionals, and everyday people with something to say. They note that people afflicted don’t need to be ‘fixed,’ but empowered.

“To really undo a lot of the damage that has been done, we need a comprehensive approach to address the root causes of violence in our community,” says Echols.

Part of the group’s methods are finding members of communities plagued with violence to become mediators. Their strategy involves a three step approach for more effective results:

1. Detect and interrupt potentially violent conflicts

2. Identify and change behaviors of people at highest risk

3. Mobilize the community to change norms

During the evaluation process, the group identifies areas with the greatest need, aka the highest rate of violence. Often, that includes areas where disinvestment and high levels of poverty are common. The Peoria Police Department has helped provide necessary data to aid in the process for the city, while expressing support for the push.

This isn’t the first time this sort of idea has been implemented, either. Several years ago, the ‘Ceasefire’ initiative was one of the first evidence-based programs introduced in Peoria. Now, it’s been reimagined as CVG for what’s being called the “next generation.”

“There’s always concerns about losing some momentum, and I think that happened here,” says Peoria City/County Health Administrator Monica Hendrickson.

Earmarked funding will cover the cost for an assessment, which will total around $25,000. If the program is approved for action, funding will come from grants given from sources like the city to cover the cost.

But Representatives with CVG note that while their model is proven effective, it doesn’t work in every city. In-depth analysis will be conducted to see if the city can be deemed a proper fit. If so, integration could happen in as soon as a month.

As it stands right now, the program is not finalized. More informational presentations are scheduled through Wednesday, followed by meetings with stakeholders and a budget proposal to the Health Department.

“This is about people and their lives. We’re talking about individuals dying 20, 30, almost 50 years too early. That’s something as a community that we should not allow,” says Hendrickson.

Several more meetings over the next few days are open to the public. You can see the schedule on the official PCCHD website by clicking here. If you want to learn more about CVG and its offerings, you can visit their official website here.