After years of working to bring Cure Violence to St. Louis and seeing that it is implemented properly, the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression (CAPCR) has resigned from the Cure Violence Community Advisory Steering Committee. This decision has become necessary to maintain the integrity of the program. We intend to continue to advocate for Cure Violence moving forward, expressing our concerns stemming from a fundamental disagreement with the City of St. Louis’ implementation process.
Solutions to community-based violence must come from that community if the results are going to be effective and long lasting. The Cure Violence model, if properly implemented, is rooted in that reality. The victims, former perpetrators, and other residents must become the leadership that addresses the problems. They have the primary vested interest in resolving issues and collectively creating a vision for their community.
The approach that city leaders are taking totally ignores the agency of people and puts it in the hands of outsiders who have no skin in the game. Their approach disregards the need to develop a cohesive and viable community. CAPCR strongly believes in the investment of people and neighborhoods as the best way to reduce personal and community violence.
To date, city leaders have too often failed to consult the Cure Violence Steering Committee, and recently overrode an important Steering Committee recommendation. This has not been a process that puts community input first.
We must not ignore the importance of these process issues. We are concerned that they will result in implementation that is not in line with the carefully crafted Cure Violence model. Historically, Cure Violence sites have proven less successful when they lose that fidelity. We urge St. Louis to stay true to the following principles.
Violence is a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue. Recognizing that, Cure Violence staff does not work with police except to gather data. Their goal is to de-escalate and heal, not to punish.
Violence interrupters and outreach workers must have the experience and credibility to mediate crises involving the most at-risk people. Therefore, they must come from or have strong ties to the communities where they work, knowing that community and having its respect.
Cure Violence works to change a neighborhood’s tacit acquiescence to violence, both individually and collectively. It stays in its lane – not judging people or involving itself in political issues such as gun control or other anti-crime campaigns.
CAPCR urges city leaders and Cure Violence staff to keep these principles always in mind. If they are not dedicated to this vision and its practical application, they will lose focus, dilute the program, and fail to solve the crisis.
City leaders have just given us an example of their lack of commitment to Cure Violence’s public health approach to violence. CAPCR views the impending presence of 50 federal agents sent here by the Trump administration as a misguided solution to the pathology of crime and violence in St. Louis. We do not need more law enforcers rounding people up, jailing them, and throwing away the key. We advocate a re-envisioning of public safety that does not rely on arrest, prosecution and incarceration. We actively support a grassroots strategy that takes into account the wishes and desires of the local residents and empowers them to effectively address crime and violence. We see the Trump administration as pursuing a draconian, fascist agenda that seeks to further establish a totalitarian police state targeting people of color and communities mired in poverty.
This deployment of federal agents is simply a political ploy to burnish the law and order message of a morally and ethically bankrupt presidential candidate trying desperately to retain power. Trump is hoping to distract voters from the disastrous response to the coronavirus pandemic, his ignoring of rampant police brutality and resurgent domestic terrorism from right wing white supremacists.
It is extremely disheartening to see city officials once again advocating this misguided, discredited vision.
CAPCR works to end police crimes and abuse, end the criminalization of a generation and expose the prison industrial complex.