Gary Slutkin

Ashoka Fellow
Chicago, United States
Fellow Since 2009
My work: eradicating the norm of violence in urban neighborhoods by treating violence as an infectious disease


This profile was prepared when Gary Slutkin was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Gary is proving that violence can be prevented in the same way that one would prevent the spread of an infectious disease: by stopping the transmission at the source and by changing behavior patterns so that less people become infected in the first place. His CeaseFire program identifies those who have been most “infected” by urban violence and treats this core group, in order to stop the transmission of violence to others. CeaseFire’s treatment is based on a corps of “violence interrupters,” former perpetrators of violence now employed to disrupt armed conflicts and educate the community about the consequences of violent behavior. Their work is complemented by coordinated community action to change people’s mindsets about gun violence through mobilizing community leaders, clergy, parents, hospitals, and so on. Both elements of the approach reinforce each other, leading to a comprehensive strategy similar to the most successful methods in eradicating infectious diseases.

Being at its core a public health approach to violence, the model is informed by rigorous data analysis which, unlike most other attempts to quell urban violence, carefully measures the impact of its interruption and outreach work (and leads the field in doing so). CeaseFire maps and analyzes “hot spots (areas with high levels of violence) and concentrates its efforts on these most affected areas. Independent evaluations have found the CeaseFire model to be successful in decreasing shootings and killings, both in terms of quelling violent incidents as well as changing attitudes towards gun violence; these results have led to the White House designating CeaseFire as a model in violence prevention worth replicating, which is spurring its rapid spread across the country.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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