Recently watched The Interrupters, a PBS documentary about a group of Chicagoans who seek to prevent murders by “interrupting” the cycle of anger, vengeance, and despair which leads people to choose to do violence against others. These people, (almost?) all of whom have gnarly criminal histories themselves, find potential perpetrators at vulnerable moments–on probation, or after they’ve been shot, etc–and stick with them, doggedly making the arguments for peace. They can’t offer a whole lot in terms of practical incentives. They can’t guarantee a job, to pick one obvious example that a lot of them I think really wish they could hand out like “Stop the Killings” t-shirts. But for this very reason the group relies on that shockingly strong force so many elite-planned initiatives disregard: the moral backbone of the poor.
The Interrupters is much better than it had to be. It gets into some questions which a more propagandistic documentary might exclude, like the group’s relationship with the police and the inevitable consequences of recruiting people whose primary qualifications are a (past) history of violence themselves and a sincere desire to keep other people from heading down the same road. Definitely worth your time if you’re interested in what fuels urban violence and which approaches can postpone and, ideally, prevent it. Some notes:
# The interrupters deal with a specific subset of violence, which you might call urban violence for its own sake between neighbors or strangers. Not child abuse, and not domestic violence; they deal with gang violence, but not only gang violence; we don’t see them addressing sexual violence, or violence that arises out of robbery or burglary. And among the perpetrators of this subset of violence it seems like pretty much nobody is solely a perpetrator. Everybody whose violence the “interrupters” are trying to interrupt has been a victim of violence in the past and is pretty clearly at risk in the present and future. Some people are simply victims of this kind of violence–the toddler who catches a stray bullet, for example. But the perpetrators are rarely only perpetrators.
Pretty sure this gun picture is via Wikimedia Commons.