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Detroit anti-violence initiative shows promise in some neighborhoods

Detroit Police Department

Detroit is now well into the second year of its Shotstoppers project, an effort that involves community partners working to reduce violence in the highest-crime areas. Detroit officials and community leaders say there’s now good evidence that it’s working, at least in some neighborhoods.

Mayor Mike Dugganlaunched Shotstoppers as a two-year project in 2023, as a way to help curb a violent crime spike during the peak years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Six community organizations were awarded contracts to work in six of Detroit’s most violent neighborhoods, where the city also uses the controversial Shotspotter technology. The program is being funded by federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

A year in, at least two of those community organizations seem to be getting results. Detroit Friends and Family, working in the Hayes-Outer Drive area of Detroit’s east side, saw fatal and non-fatal shootings decline by 48% in one year. The Cody-Rouge neighborhood on Detroit’s far west side, where FORCE Detroit has been the community partner, those crimes declined by 72%. In other Detroit neighborhoods without Shotstoppers, fatal and non-fatal shootings decreased by an average of 37% in the same period.

Alia Harvey-Quinn, the executive director of FORCE Detroit, said that group’s strategy revolves around designated “violence interrupters,” who are what she called “credible messengers” who grew up in the neighborhood. She said the interrupters closely monitor and mentor young people who have been involved in neighborhood violence, and help them “re-imagine” their lives.

Quinn-Harvey said recognizing their humanity–and offering them guidance mixed with empathy–seems to work. “Nobody meets violence for the first time as an aggressor,” she noted. “Everybody is a part of a cycle of violence as victims.

“Being empathetic works with even the most hard-to-reach people. Providing that empathy within the right cultural context is the right way to go.”

Quinn-Harvey said FORCE Detroit offers young people caught in that cycle of violence “a set of supportive services that help them to build conflict resolution skill sets, emotional regulation, and ultimately reinvest in their lives.” She added that the organization offers relocation services in instances where “the cycle has already started and the participants’ home has been compromised” so the conflict doesn’t continue to escalate.

But Harvey-Quinn warned Shotstoppers will run out of money after this year. She’s urging state lawmakers to take up bills introduced in the state House that would provide longer-term funding. “We’ve been able to see all the success we’ve had, and we’d love to see stabilized and long-term funding,” she said.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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