It's been almost two years since the process began to bring a third-party program to Des Moines to reduce violent crime.
The program, Cure Violence, is an internationally employed model and is expected to reduce homicides in Des Moines by 30% to 40% in its first year. On Monday, the Des Moines City Council voted to award the program's RFP to local nonprofit Creative Visions.
"This is only the first step," council member Josh Mandelbaum said ahead of the vote Monday. "We've got a long way to go if we want to make this program work and make it be successful here."
The Cure Violence model intends to address violent crime like a public health issue with a behavioral health approach, focusing on high-risk youth, instead of a law enforcement approach. The main geographic area for the program's efforts will be the Drake neighborhood and Evelyn K. Davis Park area, according to city documents.
Creative Visions, a longstanding community nonprofit dedicated to fighting violence founded by state Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, was the only applicant looking to support the program.
The criteria suggested for community organizations to implement the program included having strong ties to the community, being viewed as credible and trusted by high-risk individuals and being able to recruit and hire workers with criminal histories from the hotspots around town.
"We have seen the work that Creative Visions has done the last 25 years and (Abdul-Samad's) great — he's built those relationships, he's done what he could with his resources, and this is an opportunity to put some city backing behind it and a national model with the extensive training that comes with that," City Manager Scott Sanders said in an interview.
The original contract was valued at $394,000, but an evaluation of additional expenses and supplies led city staff to reduce the initial one-year contract to $380,000.
Funding will support the hiring of five full-time employees, including several violence interrupters who would be embedded in the community. Their job would be to anticipate violence, mediate conflict and prevent retaliation.
Focus areas for the first year of the program would include areas in the Drake neighborhood and Evelyn K. Davis Park areas, according to city documents.
Creative Visions is expected to begin the hiring process immediately, with a goal of filling every position by the end of the year, Sanders said.
Cure Violence requires employees of participating programs to go through training, which would last through all of 2022 and cost the city an additional $65,000. But the program doesn't need to wait that long to get started — Sanders estimates the program would be active by the end of the first quarter.
A second-year agreement with Creative Visions is possible with satisfactory performance.
The council also approved an extension of its mobile crisis response team efforts at Monday's meeting. The program represents a partnership with Broadlawns Medical Center, in which 911 calls that are not criminal in nature or medical emergencies are diverted to mental health clinicians to assist callers by phone or in-person without the presence of police or emergency medical service professionals. The new agreement runs through June 2026, with room for another extension, and cost $328,465 per year.
Chris Higgins contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Des Moines taps Creative Visions to lead Cure Violence program