Dr. Gary Slutkin is currently a professor of epidemiology and international health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has spent a decade in Africa fighting tuberculosis, cholera and other contagious diseases. He studied the patterns that diseases follow and created a solution to reverse their paths.
In 2013, Slutkin gave a TED Talk about using the same strategy used to fight infectious diseases and applying it to the patterns of violence, specifically gun violence, that are seen in urban areas in the United States. His strategy has been adopted by cities such as Chicago, New York City and Baltimore and could now be coming to Greensboro.
Officially known as Cure Violence, the program started in 2000 after Slutkin returned to the United States and noticed a pattern of concentrated deaths caused by gun violence in specific neighborhoods. The model was first implemented in the neighborhood of West Garfield Park, one of the most violent areas in Chicago, and resulted in a 67 percent decrease in shootings in its first year.
The model works by “activating voices and resources throughout our comprehensive health system and establishing violence prevention as a health sector responsibility and imperative,” according to Cure Violence’s website.
By engaging community leaders, identifying appropriate community and hospital response partners, re-examining the gun violence data, training credible workers and implementing the program with technical assistance, Cure Violence has seen dramatic change. The aim is to interrupt the transmission of violence, reduce the risk for those who are most likely to have involvement in violence and change community norms.
Last Monday, local officials and community leaders of Greensboro and Guilford County met in the Melvin Municipal Office to speak with Lori Toscano, the executive director of US programs for Cure Violence. Originally, Greensboro City Council members Goldie Wells, Sharon Hightower and Michelle Kennedy, along with community leader CJ Brinson, met on March 1 to discuss the possibility of bringing Cure Violence to Greensboro.
A few weeks later, the supporting group has added three more city council members, Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott and Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston, as well as other community members. The program is not yet set in stone as funding needs to be set up, but Cure Violence is planning to be implemented in Greensboro and High Point.
Promising eagerness was seen by both council members and city leaders after the meeting, with possible progress in planning implementation already being made.
“Our very first meeting we had identified about 10 individuals who could serve as interrupters,” said Brinson, according to Triad City Beat. “Those individuals already live in the community or they are reformed individuals who may have been incarcerated and they are returning to the community, and they have a certain level of trust already built and established with the community. And they may be reformed gang members as well who would already know how to speak the lingo, who would already be aware of the culture, know how to go in and immerse themselves in the culture so they could go in and help deter anyone else from being involved in violence.”
In 2017, there were 64 violent deaths in Greensboro, according to the Greensboro Police Department, compared to 46 in 2016. Cure Violence could spark a real change in the Greensboro and Guilford County community and be an effective effort to avoid increasing statistics.