Amidst the non-stop media reminders that we live in a violent society, every once in awhile comes a story that offers an amount of hope. One such story is about the work of a group called Aim4Peace
in Kansas City, Missouri. Aim4Peace recruits and trains ex-convicts and puts them to work to prevent future convicts. The street-savvy Aim4Peace "violence interrupters" are charged with identifying hot spots in the most violent neighborhoods and defusing the situation before violence can erupt.
By their own count, Aim4Peace mediators have been able to resolve 22 potentially-violent conflicts in 2008, and at least 14 so far in 2009. The Kansas City police department is crediting Aim4Peace with reducing violence in the East Side to the point where it no longer is the most violent area of the city. According to Maj. Anthony Ell, commander of the Kansas City Police Department's violent crimes division,
"The work they're doing in that area is having an impact."
The Aim4Peace program is modeled along the lines of Chicago's CeaseFire project, which sends former gang members and ex-convicts to the streets to stop violence before it starts. The program is rooted in the theory that violence is a public health concern
akin to diseases or viruses.
Dr. Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist who founded CeaseFire, said training people to control violence is no different from teaching them to control tuberculosis or AIDS. Says Dr. Slutkin:
"Violence behaves like every other epidemic does. One event leads to another just like every other epidemic."
Of course, programs like Aim4Peace and CeaseFire require funding
to sustain their positive impact. In these difficult economic times where municipalities are cutting budgets, proactive pro-peace programs are at greater risk of being cut. This makes it even more important to pass federal legislation such as H.R. 1064 - the Youth PROMISE act
- to help get the most at-risk communities the funding they need to keep programs like Aim4Peace alive. Visit Change.org to learn more about H.R. 1064 and send a letter to your elected officials urging their support of the Youth PROMISE act.
to the forward thinking leadership in Kansas City and to the people of Aim4Peace for their outstanding success!