Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Chaos theory - violence interruption in Waltham Forest

The G2 section of the Guardian on Monday carried a piece by Ben Ferguson about the London group 'Chaos Theory'. It is of course nothing to do with the effects of a butterfly flapping its wings in Neasden on traffic problems in Guatemala, let alone at Whipps Cross roundabout. It is about an initiative originally developed to tackle out of control gun violence in Chicago and now being applied in Waltham Forest; its aim - to reduce gang violence through a process of  'violence interruption':

"Waltham Forest is representative of the capital in many ways. There are posh parts, poor parts, green parts and grey parts. It does, however, have some outstanding features: it hosted the 2012 Olympics and was the birthplace of William Morris and Alfred Hitchcock. Now, adding to the list of things to be proud of, is Chaos Theory, a "violence interruption" team that is taking a new approach to preventing the sort of youth attack that Danny was subject to.

"Established in 2011, the team works to interrupt the tit-for-tat cycle of violence that bounces between the borough's four rivalling areas – Walthamstow, Leyton, Leytonstone and Chingford. Their emphasis is on prevention rather than law enforcement: they work by approaching the victims, since one violent attack will inevitably lead on to the next, if nothing is done."

Violence interruption is a model built built by epidemiologist and physician Gary Slutkin who for 10 years battled infectious diseases in Africa. He observes that violence directly mimics infections such as tuberculosis and Aids and suggests that the treatment for violence should use the same approach applied to reversing the spread of these diseases, going after the most infected and stopping the infection at its source.

"Violence interruption is about effective persuasion by your own people. The principal role of law enforcement is to enforce the law. But the principal role of violence interruption is to prevent the law from being enforced. For violence, we're trying to interrupt the next event, the next transmission, the next violent activity. Violent activity predicts the next violent activity as [one incidence of] HIV predicts the next." He wants to shift how we think about violence from a moral issue to a public health issue.

Read the full article on the Guardian website here

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