Dec. 17—Hope 4 Johnstown will be able to expand its Cure Violence program, thanks to a $249,488 Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency grant.
H4J has violence interrupters who provide monitoring services in the city's Moxham and Hornerstown neighborhoods. The money will allow similar work to be done in Johnstown's West End, as well as in Ferndale and Riverside.
The mission is to diffuse potentially violent situations, said Alan Cashaw, H4J's board president.
"Basically, our guys, they drive through their areas and they do it around (school) bus time in the morning — 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.," Cashaw said. "They do it at bus time in the afternoon, and they also drive in the evening, just to see the activities that are going on in their neighborhoods."
Cashaw said the interrupters often "create a nonviolent atmosphere just by (their) presence."
Local violence interruptors received training through Cure Violence, a Chicago-headquartered nationwide organization that uses methods and strategies associated with public health and disease control, such as detecting and defusing conflicts, changing social norms and treating highest-risk individuals.
"They're somewhat putting their lives on the line every day," said Quan Britt, the city's Cure Violence program manager. "They're going out there, and they're going into these communities, and they're talking to these individuals that may have past records, or past crimes, or even some of them actively involved in some of the things that are happening now."
When an interruptor sees somebody who might be ready to engage in violence, Britt said, the "biggest thing is us offering them a chance."
"If you're able to get a conversation out of some of these individuals, that means they want to change," Britt said. "They want somebody to talk to them.
"Most of the time, they want somebody to talk them out of what they're into."