What About the Shootings?

Against the Current No. 211, March/April 2021

Dianne Feeley

POLICE CHIEF CRAIG announced that in 2020, homicides were up 19% in Detroit, almost one a day. There were 327 homicides and 1173 people who were shot but didn’t die.

The number of shootings, the police department maintains, is why the police must be heavily armed. But social scientists point out that shootings aren’t random and unpredictable, rather the majority are part of networks.

Sociologist Andrew Papachristos explained the public health model that suggests how to deal with gun violence: “The idea is to identify the social network of an infected person and provide treatment as quickly as possible to that person and others in their network. The swift and rapid response to the infected individuals will hopefully stop or slow the spread of the disease….”

Fortunately Detroit has the beginning of such a program, D.L.I.V.E. Independently funded, it focuses on reaching young adults hospitalized after an acute trauma injury, seeing this as a “teachable moment” in which it is possible for the individual to choose the possibility of another path. A trained violence intervention specialist partners with the person over the next six to 12 months as they collaboratively develop a plan that includes educational and employment options, legal help and the opportunity for peer groups to gather and share experiences.

Of course this public health model takes resources, but so does the infrastructure of the police, court and jail/prison system. The outcome, however, not only can reduce gun violence but begin to deal with the trauma that many of today’s youth face.

March-April 2021, ATC 211

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