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A new age
- Monday, October 21, 2013 - From Print Edition


Violent crime has become an unwanted cornerstone in our community. Our biggest metropolitan Karachi is unsafe, and so are most of our other cities. Extortion and kidnapping for ransom are now an accepted reality even in our nation’s capital. Quetta is rampant with sectarian and political violence. Our children are growing up in an environment where the concept of strapping a bomb to oneself and exploding it is not just familiar but an all too often occurrence. We are seeing a breakdown of our community through violence of terror, extortion and gangs.


Yet, in this fight against violence we are not alone. Globally many cities even in the most developed countries face violence and crime. Whereas the nature of it may not be sectarian, religious or terrorism, it still has the same undertones. The fights there are either for gang battles, drugs, crime rings or for control over other illegal endeavors. But, the important question perhaps is not what our cities or other cities around the world are faced with, but what we and they choose to do about it.


Dr. Gary Slutkin, an American epidemiologist(the study of the patterns, causes and effects of health and disease conditions in a population) theorized that violence should be treated like an epidemic and can be prevented by stopping the behavior at its source. The idea was to prevent the crime rather than prosecute it. The practical implementation of this programme took the form of “Cure Violence”.


The Cure Violence model uses outreach workers, or “violence interrupters”, to mitigate conflict on the street before it turns violent. The interrupters bud crime and violence at the bud. Often the interrupters are former gang members, who use their street credibility to show community members better ways of communicating with each other and how to resolve conflicts peacefully.


In case of gang wars, or when the strings are being pulled by someone else, the interrupters can help stop conflicts and violence by explaining how the fight would result in a lose lose situation.Cure Violence takes a three-pronged approach: detection/interruption of planned violent activity, behavior change of high-risk individuals, and changing community norms.


In the US, the cities of Chicago, Baltimore and New York are three cities where there is a sustained and long history of violence. The programme was piloted in these three violence centers. Violence in mega cities are generally confined to certain areas with certain basic problems. In Karachi there is more violence in Lyari than in Defence.


Economics besides other factors plays a vital part.


The programme produced impressive results. In Chicago, a study by Professor Wesley G. Skogan, an expert on crime and policing at Northwestern University, completed a three-year, independent study which found the programme successfully reduced shootings and killings by 41% to 73%. Actual and attempted shootings were reduced 16% to 28% in four of the seven city sites studied. Retaliatory shootings were reduced 100% in five of the seven communities examined in the report.


From the founding of the organization in 2000, the annual murder rate in Chicago dropped from 628 to 435 in 2010 - the lowest in 45 years.


As this case study clearly shows how community involvement can reduce violence. While we spend millions and millions to combat violence and terrorism, we pay new recruits thousands of rupees, spend more on building higher walls and buy new equipment, we must also stop and engage our community. People should be aware of who is moving into their community. Specially in Karachi we can involve people and former gang members to help stop violence. Killing and shooting is not the only solution, we can rehabilitate and nip the problem in the bud. We can cure violence!


The writer is Youth Ambassador of Geo and Jang Group. Email:[email protected] Facebook:


Twitter: @am_nawazish