Many cities are putting hopes in violence interrupters, but few understand their challenges

As calls for alternatives to policing intensify, several cities have set their sights on violence interruption to solve the problems of gun violence and over-policing in communities of color — but many say they need more social and professional support to succeed in the job long term

While many groups are getting huge government investments, disbursement of the funds hasn’t been uniform, and smaller, more grassroots groups, like Henry’s, have been left to their own devices, said Howard Henderson, a nonresident senior fellow of governance at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization in Washington, D.C.

On top of consistent salaries, violence interruption organizations need structured and intentional funding for mental health resources and workplace training, he said, with health and retirement benefits.

“They need everything that a police department would need, because they’re also fighting crime,” he said.

The efficacy of the model has been called into question, and some research has said that the “approach is difficult to evaluate” and that it has “promising but mixed” outcomes in different cities with respect to gun violence. But Henderson noted that the comparisons aren’t “apples to apples,” because there is no uniform approach to this kind of violence interruption.

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