SCALA members met at Bellarmine University to hear a presentation on public safety, and media was allowed in for the first time. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Tuesday’s meeting of the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda (SCALA) was open to media for the first time since forming almost a year ago, where members heard a presentation from an official with the administration of Mayor Greg Fischer on an initiative to combat violent crime in the city.

Rashaad Abdur-Rahman, the director of the Metro Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, was one of six guests of SCALA at the meeting that worked with its public safety subcommittee on what was billed as an initial report on reducing violent crime and homicides. Abdur-Rahman presented findings on the success of the Cure Violence initiative in cities around the country, estimating that it would cost $3 million to implement in Louisville.

Less than half of the 69 SCALA members attended the meeting, which was held at Bellarmine University.

Rashaad Abdur-Rahman, director of the Metro Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, gave SCALA members a presentation on the Cure Violence Initiative | Photo by Joe Sonka

The Cure Violence initiative seeks to reduce violence by combating it in the same way a city would combat a disease, deploying teams in problem areas to interrupt conflicts, identify and treat the people who are most at risk of violence, and change social norms. Abdur-Rahman said that other cities had deployed such methods in sites that are smaller than neighborhoods and found a 40 percent to 70 percent reduction in violent crime in those areas.

Metro Council appropriated $550,000 in its budget last year to city programs that are attempting a similar strategy in a section of the Portland neighborhood, hiring reformed individuals with criminal pasts to serve as interrupters who reduce conflict before it escalates into violence.

In order to create six new sites with teams of “credible messengers” in areas of the city that have seen an increasing number of murders in recent years — mostly African-American neighborhoods in West Louisville — Abdur-Rahman said that $3 million would be needed, likely from a mix of taxpayers dollars and philanthropy.

He said that success for such a program would not only entail a reduction in shootings and homicides, but more prosperity in the form of increased businesses, jobs and opportunity.

A number of SCALA members asked Abdur-Rahman questions about how the program would work in Louisville, what it would cost, and how soon it would be expected to produce results. He said that others cities had seen reductions in violence at Cure Violence sites within a year, while some have seen reductions in a matter of months.

Mayor Fischer is expected to reveal his proposed city budget for the next fiscal year at the end of April.

SCALA indicated that the report presented at Tuesday’s meeting was prepared by its public safety committee with the assistance of Abdur-Rahman, the city’s chief of community building Vincent James, the city’s chief of performance improvement Daro Mott, LIFE Hope Center for a Safe Louisville and No More Red Dots director Eddie Woods — who works with the city’s interrupter program in Portland — LMPD assistant chief Lt. Col. Shara Parks, and JCPS assistant superintendent Katy Zeitz.

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]