Violence Prevention Funding Could Change Cleveland's Response To Crime

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at a podium in the White House rose garden as President Joe Biden adjusts his mask behind him.
President Joe Biden adjusts his face mask as he listens to Attorney General Merrick Garland speak about gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden at the White House, Thursday, April 8, 2021, in Washington. [Andrew Harnik / AP]

The Biden administration is planning to direct federal money from 26 funding streams in five executive branch departments, such as Medicaid and the U.S. Department of Justice grant programs, toward community violence intervention efforts.

The shift in funding priorities is part of Biden’s plan to reduce gun violence, and would add to the $5 billion for the same local initiatives that are included in the American Jobs Plan and proposals for enhanced background checks he wants Congress to pass. The president also has directed federal law enforcement to take steps to crack down on gun parts that the administration says lead to more violence.

Myesha Crowe, who runs Cleveland’s largest intervention organization, the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance, said the Peacemakers have only just started figuring out what all these new funding opportunities might mean.

“I’m hopeful that organizations like Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance are finally put at the top of the priority list,” Crowe said. “Having Joe Biden make this a part of his plan is showing that this work is effective.”

Years of research have shown targeted programs to be effective when deployed in limited geographic areas. These efforts rely on community members outside of law enforcement, focus on those most likely to be involved in violence and invest in opportunities that offer real alternatives to violence.

According to Crowe, Biden’s plan for supporting organizations like the Peacemakers through funding that typically goes to law enforcement or hospitals or public housing is a new opportunity for cities like Cleveland.

“It’s inviting other people who are not just solely focused on this, to bring those people to the table, too, so we can have a shared and united safety plan on how to combat the violence and provide alternatives,” Crowe said.

Peacemakers already are a fixture in Cleveland hospitals, working with gunshot victims and their families as soon as they arrive at the emergency room, to prevent retaliation. The group has outreach workers scattered across the city and a juvenile court referral program for at-risk youth.

Crowe said if some of the new federal money makes its way to Cleveland Peacemakers, the goal will be to grow those programs so they’re seen as an established part of the solution to violent crime.

“I think the goal is to align with those who have power to make change in a city, that violence intervention and prevention programs are also a voice at that table when decisions are made,” Crowe said.

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