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Cure Violence project begins training with staff selected for strong community relationships

The partnership between Creative Visions and the City of Des Moines is working to tackle gun violence.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Des Moines Police Department reported a drop in homicides from 21 in 2020 to 14 in 2021, but the Cure Violence program is working to bring that number down even more.

Cure Violence is a joint project between the City of Des Moines and Creative Visions that's been two years in the making. With last year's decline in homicides, DMPD said there was an increase in the number of people getting shot and surviving. Cure Violence wants to decrease those occurrences as well, by getting to the root of the problem.

Right now, the team's focus is getting their employees the proper training.

"We have selected our candidates to be the violence interrupters, those are the individuals that have the boots on the ground, actually identifying high risk individuals that can benefit from the project model," said Ivette Muhammad, the program leader.

Project manager Timothy McCoy said everyone who selected for the job was chosen with purpose.

"The individuals that we have put in place and have selected have relationships with the community, they have buy in from the community, and that's what's going to make them effective and actually making that change happening," McCoy said.

Sergeant Paul Parezek of the Des Moines Police Department commends the efforts of organizations like Creative Visions and credits them for helping suppress and prevent crime.

"Those community partnerships, I mean, that's what helps make this work," Parizek said. "It's the teamwork between folks who have real strong connections to the community, and then the police officers that are policing those communities."

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The Cure Violence team will not be going to the scene when a crime is in progress. Instead staff will respond within 72 hours.

"So what that will look like is first we'll find out... from our violence interrupters, who actually have a pulse on the community, what happened?" Muhammad said. 

Then staff will then work to track down who is involved and try to find connections to that person's family or friends.

"Then after that, we go, and we reach out to the community, to host an event, to bring about awareness and get the community to speak out against it," Muhammad said. "And that community engagement is what actually determines the behavior that actually stops the shooting."

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