GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Certain city leaders and activists in Grand Rapids want to take a different approach to handling violence in the city.
“Think of violence as a health issue. As a contagious disease that travels.” said Tami Vandenberg. She owns the Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids and has been an activist in Grand Rapids for 20 years.
Grand Rapids City Commissioner Ruth Kelly shares her metaphor. “Just as we can interrupt a disease with medicine, they look at how you can interrupt crime, in particular, violence.”
It’s a philosophy being taught by “Cure Violence” an organization out of Chicago. Kelly, Vandenberg, and roughly 10 other city leaders and advocates from Grand Rapids spent two days in mid-June taking part in what they called an intensive training session with the organizers of “Cure Violence.”
“I know Chicago has had a lot of shootings,” said Kelly. “What we are looking at is those areas where they have implemented this program and they have driven down the numbers drastically.”
Vandenberg said the results she saw says it all. “The cities that implement it exactly as they recommended have seen up to a 50 percent reduction in shootings in one year.”
The trick, according to the organizers behind “Cure Violence,” is getting collaboration between the police department, the neighborhoods, even hospitals.
“Hospitals are interested in this because they have to deal with violence at the trauma centers, and sometimes they will see the same people coming through,” said Kelly.
From there, you establish a business of preventing crimes by opening up a store-front in the areas where the crimes are being committed.
“We are looking at evenings,” said Vanderberg. “We are looking at weekends. And there are folks there ready to respond.”
The next step from there is hiring and training people to operate these “Cure Violence” depots.
“It’s separate from the police department,” said Kelly. “It’s separate from the city. This would be a separate organization that would employ individuals that would be able to reach out to those who have been affected by violence and show them another way.”
The catch, according to Kelly, is if you don’t follow the model laid out by “Cure Violence,” the organization will stop their involvement and training.
A federal grant application has already been filed, according to commissioner Kelly. Vandenberg estimates the cost of operating a single store-front operation in Grand Rapids would be $250,000 to $300,000 a year.
The next step is present a formal proposal to the full commission in the coming months.