GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Back in May, the City of Grand Rapids announced that they were looking for an organization to run the new Cure Violence program, which is known to be effective in reducing crime on the streets.
After weeks of searching and interviewing, the Urban League of West Michigan was selected Tuesday evening.
“It feels amazing. It’s been a long time coming,” said Gregg Hampshire, director of the Urban League’s Health and Wellness Center for Youth. “The Urban League has been doing fantastic community work for nearly 80 years here in the Grand Rapids area. We are already very engaged in these communities.”
Hampshire said the program’s goal is to curb violence by taking a public health approach. It gets to the heart of the issues and helps people heal from trauma and overcome challenges like substance abuse disorder.
“It addresses crime, specifically violent crime, as it if were a disease,” Hampshire said during an interview on Wednesday. “So by treating it as a disease, what we can do is connect with those that are at the highest risk of exposure, stop the transmission [of violence] and then try and change societal norms to improve our communities.”
Hampshire added that they’ll also implement an "interrupters" approach, which will be a particular team of trained interrupters that are hired to go into the communities, build rapport and ultimately intervene and diffuse conflicts before they become violent. Cure Violence was developed in Chicago 15 years ago and has proven to be efficient around the country and world.
“So, it is an evident-based strategy. There are a lot of stats that show that it has been effective in a lot of communities,” Hampshire said. “Areas like Yonkers in New York went 28 months without shootings or killings, and different areas like the 39th [ward] of Philadelphia experienced over a year of no deaths.”
They’re looking to achieve those same results in Grand Rapids, and the City is confident that the Urban League will do it.
“I’m excited to see the community’s voice elevated, to see the solutions that are proposed by the community, backed by science and evidence and supported by our city leaders, now coming to a place where we are presenting that and doing that in Grand Rapids,” said Brandon Davis with the City. “It’s an exciting time. I think this will lead to great change.”
Davis, who’s the city’s director of oversight and public accountability, said the program costs $625,000 to operate. Spectrum contributed half of the funds so far. The City is donating $75,000 a year as well, and the Urban League is also securing money for the program.
Cure Violence is expected to last for three years, Davis said. That’s how long it’ll take for the results they’re hoping for to come to fruition.
The Urban League said they’re optimistic that the program will be successful.
“We are already very engaged in these communities. So, to be selected is an honor,” Hampshire said. “I believe it made sense. The Urban League is engaged, and we’re very excited for this opportunity to show what we can do.”