DES MOINES, Iowa — Combating gun violence with intervention. “That’s dealing with poverty, dealing with mental health and to be able to address those issues by providing resources around those issues,” said Ivette Muhammad who serves as Cure Violence Director in Des Moines.
Just three months old, Cure Violence, under the wing of Muhammad and Des Moines non-profit Creative Visions, is working to identify at-risk 14-25-year-olds.
“If we do our job correctly there will be less 911 calls, less responses to shootings and violence activity and that’s our ultimate goal. To have a safe and thriving community,” said Muhammad.
The timing couldn’t be better as police continue to see an uptick not only in gun violence but the youthful hands the weapons are in. “You talk to any street cop in the city of Des Moines and they are going to tell you that they are seeing more guns, more guns in the hands of young kids and more gun-related violence,” said Sgt. Paul Parizek with the Des Moines Police Department.
There are four key crime zones the organization is focusing on for now. Muhammad said, “From east to west it is Second Avenue to 25th Street. From north to south it is I-235 to Hickman and we also include Prospect Park because too much happens in that park. The Smokey Row area has also become an area because they want to support our efforts.”
It’s an uphill battle but for Ivette it is personal. The mural outside Creative Visions lists nearly every victim of a fatal shooting in Des Moines dating back to 1996 when her brother Rafael Robinson was shot sixteen times. “A lot of senseless death has occurred due to gun violence and we all have a role and a responsibility to do what we can,” Muhammad said.
The national organization Cure Violence says they were able to decrease shootings in New York by around 60% and within the first week in Chicago by 48%. Here in Des Moines after one year, the goal is to reduce shootings and homicides by 30%. “Detect, Respond, Intervene and Prevent,” Muhammad said while referencing their acronym for deterring gun violence D.R.I.P.
Ivette says recently a teen had their home riddled with bullets. They were forced to move and without money, she says he was ready to retaliate. That is when Cure Violence stepped in to find him a new place and pay his rent with the resources the program was given from the city. “It made us feel amazing. That participant is what we call an active participant so now they are vested in the work we do. When we canvas the community and hot spots they are with us canvassing,” said Muhammad.
Ivette sees it as at least one name that won’t share the same wall on a mural with her brother. “If I can stop one shooting that’s one bullet a mom doesn’t have to mourn over if she loses her son,” Muhammad said.
The group hopes to expand to east and south Des Moines in the future. Community members can help contribute to their violence interruption efforts by calling 515-244-4003 all tips about potential gun violence are kept confidential.