Safe Streets Baltimore (SSB) is based on the successful CureViolence model developed at the University of Illinois School of Public Health in Chicago. Cure Violence stops the spread of violence in communities by using the strategies associated with disease control: detecting and interrupting conflicts, identifying and treating the highest risk individuals, and changing social norms. A key component of the model is its staff. The outreach workers are all ex-offenders from the community who have “street credibility” but are no longer involved in criminal life. While the entire community benefits from the violence reduction, intensive services are provided to about 50 youth and young adults aged 14 to 25 at each site. These individuals are at high risk of being perpetrators or victims of violence and are linked to mental health care, drug treatment, job training, and other opportunities.
SSB has been operating since 2007 under the auspices of the Baltimore City Health Department in three sites– one in Cherry Hill, one in McElderry Park, and one in Park Heights. (The Abell Foundation provided $200,000 in startup funding for the original sites). In 2016, the Abell Foundation provided $198,650 to expand Safe Streets into Sandtown-Winchester, the epicenter of the Freddie Gray unrest and also an area that consistently ranks high in terms of gun violence. It has had an increasing number of non-fatal shooting victims since 2011 as well as several fatal firearm homicides per year. Sandtown-Winchester also has the highest incarceration rate in the state with 458 residents serving time, which is nearly 25% of its total population of 2,510. Approximately 40 percent of Sandtown-Winchester residents are under 25 years old, and only 60 percent of the population 16 years and older is in the labor force.
Since its implementation, SSB has significantly reduced shootings and homicides in the targeted areas where it has been implemented. A recent report authored by Daniel Webster, Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research (May 2016), studied specific police enforcement and public health violence prevention strategies over a thirteen year period (2003-2015) and found the largest effects on nonfatal shootings were attributed to Safe Streets which, on average, was associated with a 27 percent reduction over the study period. While each Safe Streets site demonstrated some reduction in nonfatal shootings, Cherry Hill saw the largest change, with an estimated 41 percent reduction.