Cure Violence passes first test in Board of Aldermen

Cure Violence passes first test in Board of Aldermen

CITY HALL – A proposal to spend $5 million on the Cure Violence program to intervene against potential killers before they strike in the city is one step closer to implementation.

The Board of Aldermen approved the proposal 26-0 on Friday, Sept. 27, in the first of two votes. A similar result in the second of two votes would pass it. The Board of Estimate and Apportionment, which approves fiscal matters, would then have to pass it; and finally, it would need the mayor’s signature.

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment will consider the three-year allocation at a special meeting at 11 a.m. Thursday in the mayor’s office. That board, made up of the mayor, the Board of Aldermen president, and the comptroller, approves city money matters.

“I’ve seen a lot of folks go down. This one really chokes me up,” Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed said right after the vote was announced. He’s been a primary supporter of the program as a way to cut the high number of homicides in St. Louis.

As of 3:30 p.m. Friday, 154 people had been killed in St. Louis, under the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting system. That’s up from 137 at the same moment last year, city police Public Information Officer Evita Caldwell said. So far this year, there were 11 homicides involving those 16 and under, as well as two additional incidents in that age group still considered “suspicious sudden deaths.” Last year at this time, there were four homicides involving juveniles (16 or under).

The funding would be overseen by the city Health Department and approved by the Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee.

The department would keep track of performance of contractors in various parts of the city. If the city looks at data and finds that a group is underperforming, it won’t pay them anymore, and another group will handle that area.

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment has allocated $1.5 million for alternative programs. The city’s 2019-2020 includes $500,000 for an alternatives-to-violence program.

Reed said the those programs also should go into the Health Department fund.

The only concern raised in discussion in Friday’s Board of Aldermen meeting was by First Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus.

Tyus asked whether it was a matter of people coming in and saying they had to do something.

“I’m going to vote for this, but I’m going to do it with a lot of reservations,” she said. “How would you be able to say that this is not working?”

Tyus said Cure Violence had worked in Baltimore but not in Chicago, where it was originally referred to as CeaseFire.  

“Children are very important, but it’s equally all the other people who have been killed,” she said.

Twenty-Sixth Ward Alderwoman Shameem Clark-Hubbard said people who worked in the program would be vetted.

“Right now is the time to try,” she said, noting that the program was evidence-based. “I think that a program like this would be a game-changer.”

Twenty-Third Ward Alderman Joe Vaccaro, who chairs the Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee, cited the testimony of relatives or friends of homicide victims who spoke at the meeting of his committee on Friday, Sept. 27. 

Nineteenth Ward Alderwoman Marlene Davis gave a thumbs-up in the discussion. 

“It has worked. It has changed the culture of the worst neighborhoods,” Davis said.

“You’ve got to change the culture of the small communities one at a time,” Davis said. “This is the beginning of something that will really change our community.”

Reed’s ordinance states: “The Cure Violence model is based on the World Health Organization’s epidemic control approach for stopping the spread of infectious diseases such as AIDS, cholera and tuberculosis. The model advances a prevention methodology to identify and detect violent events; interrupt, intervene and reduce risk of their occurrence; and change the behaviors and norms that perpetuate violence. Communities that have adopted a health approach to violence prevention have seen up to 70 percent reductions in shootings and killings worldwide.”

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