City of Des Moines approves new approach against gun violence with community help

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DES MOINES, Iowa — A month ago the Des Moines Police Department hoped the community would step up as violence among juveniles continued its upward trend. Monday night, it seems they are getting the help they pleaded for.

The city of Des Moines hopes a new approach to fighting violent crime will make the city safer for everyone. Monday night council members unanimously approved the community based program that would bring a third-party program to Iowa’s capital city to reduce crime.

Based in Chicago, the Cure Violence Model program approaches violence as a learned behavior that can be treated using disease control methods, violence interruption and community mobilization. Creative visions will implement it with staff from the local neighborhoods and while it has no ties to law enforcement, the police are welcoming the community involvement. “A Couple of the big cities it has been implemented in has been New York and Baltimore. They saw a crime reduction in between 50-70% those reductions are all based on measurable material,” said Des Moines police lieutenant Josh Rhamy.

Iowa representative Ako Abdul-Samad and his well known non-profit violence fighting program Creative Visions was awarded the program monday night. The official start date is in 2022 but they will begin the rollout immediately. The one year $380,000 contract would provide six violence interruptors with credible ties to the community that work to identify at risk 14-25 year olds to address conflict that could lead to violence in the community. The violence interruptors intervene with de-escalation, mediation, resources and changing behavioral norms. The primary focus in the first year has been identified by the cure violence organization to be the drake neighborhood and evelyn k davis park areas.

While the project is not under the Des Moines Police Department umbrella they are pleased the community is taking up another tool to assist them in preventing violence. “We know we have gun violence issues in our community. We know taking a public health and community based approach can be successful,” said Ward 3 City Councilmember Josh Mandelbaum. Lieutenant Rhamy added, “They look at what other factors are playing into it. Are there barriers to housing? Are there barriers to health care? So the organization will also look at making referrals. If there are those barriers are they contributing?”

The city also agreed to a $65,000 contract with Creative Visions to train staff through the Cure Violence program. Within the first year, the city hopes to reduce shootings and homicides by at least 30%.

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