Evaluation of Baltimore's Safe Streets Program

Cure Violence, formerly CeaseFire, was developed in 1995 to reduce youth violence associated with firearms. The program takes a multifaceted approach to intervention that involves several different components. One of the major components of this program is street outreach workers, many former gang members, who go out into urban areas and develop relationships with at-risk youth. Outreach staff also act as “violence interruputers” who work around the clock to intervene at the site of conflicts and mediate potential violent encounters between individuals or gangs.

Dr. Gary Slutkin developed the Cure Violence program by applying public health lessons to gun violence in some of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods. An earlier rigorous evaluation of Cure Violence in Chicago, using a multiple interrupted time series design, found significant reductions in gun violence and retaliatory homicides associated with four of seven intervention neighborhoods studied. Furthermore, when budget cuts reduced program implementation in certain Chicago neighborhoods, shootings increased in these areas. These preliminary results encouraged the Baltimore City Health Department to replicate Chicago’s Cure Violence program in four of Baltimore’s most violent neighborhoods under the name Safe Streets with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

This report presents the evaluation findings of Safe Streets, led by Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, and Jennifer Whitehill, PhD, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This rigorous multiple interrupted time series evaluation measures Safe Streets' effect on gun violence, attitudes about the acceptability of gun use and impact on the lives of participants after the implementation of the program.

Although the evaluation was not funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Chicago’s Cure Violence model is being replicated in 15 more sites across the country with a $4.5 million RWJF grant. The findings from this evaluation will be used to identify the most effective elements of the Cure Violence model in reducing gun violence and will add to the body of evidence supporting replication efforts.

To measure the effect of the Safe Streets program in intervention neighborhoods, the evaluation: reviewed implementation data of the program; did multiple interrupted time series analysis of the effects of the program on homicide and nonfatal shootings; conducted a community survey of attitudes toward gun violence; and interviewed participants to determine their perceptions of the program’s effect on their lives.

To learn more about multiple interrupted time series analysis, click here.

Key Findings

  • Safe Streets was associated with 5.4 fewer homicide incidents and 34.6 fewer nonfatal shooting incidents, on average, across all program sites during 112 months of observation after implementation of the program.
  • All four intervention neighborhoods showed statistically significant reductions in nonfatal shootings after program implementation, and two neighborhoods showed statistically significant reductions in homicides.
  • One intervention neighborhood, Madison-Eastend, experienced an outbreak of homicides during the intervention period due to an intense gang feud, which resulted in a homicide rate nearly three times higher than expected during the 18-month period.

Evaluators measured significant changes in attitudes toward gun violence in intervention neighborhoods. Youth in intervention neighborhoods were 4 times more likely to have little or no support for using violence than young men in control neighborhoods after program implementation. By building trusting relationships, diffusing sources of conflict, and changing social norms surrounding gun use, Cure Violence has shown a significant reduction in gun violence for program participants.

This evaluation suggests that effective program replication of the Cure Violence model is possible. However, some Safe Street sites were more effective in reducing gun violence than others. Future efforts should focus on understanding and improving implementation of the model and discovering the circumstances under which the program is most effective.