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‘We’re Wasting That Money’ — Kansas City Councilman Pushes To Defund Crime Prevention Program Aim4Peace

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Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3
Aim4Peace uses so-called 'violence interrupters' to canvass high-crime communities and meets shooting and stabbing victims at local hospitals to provide immediate intervention.

Councilman Brandon Ellington says the money for the program lauded by local health officials would be better spent on smaller organizations that address the root causes of crime.

Kansas City Councilman Brandon Ellington is making a push to defund Aim4Peace, a crime prevention program lauded by local health officials.

The program, which has been around since 2008, uses so-called “violence interrupters” to canvass high-crime communities and sends its workers to hospitals following non-fatal shootings to provide immediate interventions to people who have been involved in a shooting.

But Ellington argues the 73 conflicts that the organization says it mediated in 2019 don’t justify the cost of the program.

An ordinance before the city’s neighborhoods, planning and development committee would reallocate $763,810 in health levy funds dedicated to Aim4Peace to smaller organizations that provide “evidence-based programs.”

Ellington said there are other organizations that come to the scene of a crime, rather than to the hospital, that don’t get any funding from the city. He mentioned several recent shootings near where he lives at 40th and Prospect.

“You know who didn’t show up to the murder on 23rd street? A city-funded program. You know who didn’t show up to the shootings off of 40th? A city-funded program,” Ellington said.

Ellington said the issue is close to his heart. He said he witnessed his first murder when he was five years old and that Aim4Peace isn’t equipped to provide the mental health services that shooting survivors need.

“When I talk about murder and I talk about violence, I talk about it from a personal understanding,” Ellington said.

Instead, Ellington said that money should go to smaller organizations. He referenced domestic violence prevention program G.Y.R.L, which is led by his mother, G.R. “Ms. E” Ellington.

“I know we can do a better job ensuring the nonprofits that are actually out there providing services can have a greater net reach,” he said.

But Rashid Junaid, program manager for Aim4Peace, disputed Ellington’s claims.

“He’s been putting out a lot of misinformation about Aim4Peace that is just incorrect,” Junaid said.

Junaid said most of the money for the program comes from outside Kansas City — any money from the health department only serves as leverage to help Aim4Peace secure state and federal grants.

“And he’s trying to take that money… for whatever he wants to do,” Junaid said.

According to statistics from Aim4Peace, the 73 conflict mediations accomplished in 2019 potentially saved more than a hundred lives. And workers from the program responded to more more than 450 shootings and stabbings at hospitals and made 361 follow-up visits.

Local health officials praise the program.

Dr. Erica Carney is Kansas City’s Emergency Medical director. She said the interventions Aim4Peace provides can ultimately prevent victims from winding up in the hospital again.

“Even though I might be viewed as qualified to help in these interventions or discussions, I am simply not Aim4Peace. And I simply cannot fill that gap,” she said.

Michael Moncure, Assistant Medical Director of Trauma at Truman Medical Center, provided written testimony in support of Aim4Peace.

“I have had numerous patients who’ve narrowly escaped death be met at the Trauma Center by Violence Interrupters who counsel families, stop others from retaliating and perform groundwork in the community to help the healing process,” Moncure wrote.

Kansas City resident Courtney Jones said after her son was killed in June 2019, Aim4Peace and others in the Kansas City health department provided support to her and her family. She said the individuals she interacted with were “a blessing to me when I didn’t know where else to go.”

“There’s not a lot of support here for people who look like me, who look like the last 16 men and woman I’ve seen die in the last 14 days,” Jones said.

Still, councilman Dan Fowler said the data provided by Aim4Peace was inconsistent. Fowler suggested the city broadly reevaluate its crime prevention programs, and take a look at what other initiatives are working elsewhere.

“We need an effective violence prevention program. And frankly, I don't see that in the data we're getting now,” Fowler said.

A city council committee agreed to revisit the issue in September.

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