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Exposure to Gun Violence Among the Population of Chicago Community Violence Interventionists (WP-22-12)

David Hureau, Theodore Wilson, Hilary Jackl, Jalon Arthur, Christopher Patterson, and Andrew Papachristos

Background. In spite of increased calls for policy investment in community-based violence intervention efforts, very little information exists about the existing interventionist workforce or its basic work conditions. The researchers set out to learn about the population of community violence intervention workers in a major American city (Chicago, IL) and assess its work-related exposure to gun violence.

Methods. Between March and November 2021, the researchers conducted a near-census of Chicago community-based violence interventionists using a researcher-guided web-based survey. Based on survey responses, they analyzed the demographic composition and work-related exposure to violence of Chicago interventionists. They used 100% confidence intervals to generate population levels of witnessing violence on the job.

Findings. 93% of contacted interventionists agreed to participate in the study, representing 87% of the professional population in Chicago. The majority of interventionists are middle-aged Black men. Exposure to violence among this population is substantial; workers regularly confront scenes of gun violence, injury, and death, with nearly 12% reporting being personally shot at in the last year during the course of professional duties.

Interpretation. Increased policy attention should be given to the personal costs associated with violence intervention work. Public health practice should consider methods for improving worker safety and reducing worker exposure to violence while developing robust systems of support for its most vulnerable practitioners on the front lines of community violence.

This paper is published in Science Advances.

David Hureau, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, University at Albany

Theodore Wilson, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, University at Albany

Hilary Jackl, School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany

Jalon Arthur, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Chicago CRED

Christopher Patterson, Assistant Secretary for Violence Prevention, State of Illinois Office of Firearm Violence Prevention

Andrew Papachristos, Professor of Sociology, Director of the Northwestern Neighborhood & Network Initiative, and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

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