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Ideastream Public Media is bringing you stories about the surge in gun violence plaguing many Northeast Ohio neighborhoods. Gun violence is not new, but mass shootings and community violence have reached a fever pitch — destroying lives and tearing some communities apart. We're talking with residents, activists, victims and experts about prevention strategies and solutions.

Cleveland looks to neighborhood groups for violence interruption as residents beg for help

A group of children, including Marley McMichael, spoke before Cleveland City Council about their experience with gun violence at a May 13 meeting.
Cleveland City Council
A group of children, including Marley McMichael, spoke before Cleveland City Council about their experience with gun violence at a May 13 meeting.

As summer, when violence typically peaks in Cleveland, draws closer, Cleveland elected officials are looking to neighborhood groups as part of the solution.

As part of ongoing efforts to fund violence prevention efforts, Cleveland City Council approved $300,000 total to three groups to deploy street violence interrupters to "hot spots" across the city.

"I can speak to these organizations and the work that they're putting in without receiving funding, but just imagine some of the things that they now can do," said Council Member Anthony Hairston, who represents Ward 10. "This is a starting point, and we can see some change here. Then maybe we can expand the work that they're doing... put more dollars into this contract, to better support our neighborhoods."

Ward 10 includes Euclid Park, Nottingham Village and parts of the South Collinwood, St Clair-Superior, and Glenville neighborhoods.

The legislation gives $100,000 each to Mt. Pleasant Ministerial Alliance, ICONS and Children at Play Edutainment to deploy community leaders across the city to reduce violent activity in “hot spots” identified through ShotSpotter and police data.

Angela Shute-Woodson, the city's director of community relations, said her department can only do so much with its staffing and that funding groups with established trust in the neighborhoods could be effective in mitigating violence.

"They already have what I call PhD of the streets," Shute-Woodson said. "That’s what we need right now for what we’re facing and what we’re going to face this summer.”

The plan is for the groups to work to engage people, particularly youth, and provide resources, such as drug and alcohol assistance resources, employment opportunities and more.

The contracts are for one year with the option to renew. This is the latest in the city working with on-the-ground violence interrupters. Last year, Mayor Justin Bibb launched a$10 million Neighborhood Safety Fund to curb violence across the city.

The legislation was passed a week after Cleveland youth showed up to City Hall to speak about their experiences with gun violence.

“Gun violence is a problem with our community,” said Marley McMichael during last week's public comment period as she teared up. She was one of several children who spoke at the meeting. “Some kids are even scared to go outside.”

In recent years, the city has struggled to recruit and maintain police officers. Cleveland is budgeted for 1,350 officers, though about 1,100 of those positions are currently filled. That number was reduced from previous years in the latest budget process, which slashed 148 vacant jobs.

Abbey Marshall covers Cleveland-area government and politics for Ideastream Public Media.