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'What they won't tell the police, they'll tell to me': Workers say 'Cure Violence' is a success despite recent shootings

Jacksonville city leaders estimate 37 shootings have been prevented and 11 lives have been saved in the past six months.

When will the shootings stop?

It's a question you may ask yourself after hearing about shootings and other violence happening around Jacksonville. The homicide numbers in Jacksonville are growing and have already surpassed last year's numbers, according to our news partners at the Florida Times-Union. 

But, city leaders say those numbers, unfortunately, could be worse if it wasn't for a new program called "Cure Violence." 

"Cure Violence" is a community-based crime prevention program that got its start in Chicago. The program has been in Jacksonville for six months. 

Workers known as "violence interrupters" walk around different neighborhoods, known for crime, speaking with people in an effort to prevent violence.  They also respond to the scene of shootings to de-escalate the situation.  

Credit: City of Jacksonville

Jacksonville city leaders estimate 37 shootings have been prevented and 11 lives have been saved during the short span of time that "Cure Violence" has been in Jacksonville. 

"What they won't tell the police, they'll tell to me," Rod Lawson said. "We ain't the police. Don't deal with the police."  

Rod Lawson is a violence interrupter. He got involved with "Cure Violence" as a way to help others in his neighborhood. Both his brother and nephew were murdered in just the past four years.

"It's emotionally draining," Lawson said. "Still hurts today. But, for me to be working with Cure Violence, I can kind of take that out and help others go through what I went through and make their lives better." 

Even local hospitals are getting involved with the program.

"As soon as they come in or we know they're coming in, we'll give a call to the hospital responder," Dr. Marie Crandall said. 

The hospitals use violence interrupters to calm down upset family members and friends and stop future retaliation. Crandall is a trauma surgeon with UF Health and works to save the lives of those who have been shot. 

"It's very seldom that we have none," Crandall said. "I would say anywhere from one to two...to 10 any given day." 

Credit: First Coast News

She worked in Chicago and said the "Cure Violence" program was successful there. 

"It was called Ceasefire Illinois at that time and we saw this was really making an impact in some of our most distressed communities," Crandall said. 

But, as the homicide numbers rise, is this program really making a difference in Jacksonville? Cure Violence Director Damian Cook said it's a process.

"It will take time, but as time goes on they will be able to have a greater impact.  New York City, just recently, went an entire weekend without a shooting," Cook said. 

Earlier this year, the City Council voted to give "Cure Violence" nearly $750,000. City leaders said the funding would cover the group's first year and part of its second year.