Study: Community-driven Ceasefire weekends effective in reducing violence in Baltimore

0
Share the News


Young supporters of the Baltimore Ceasefire carry signs at a rally in 2018. Photo by J.M. Giordano.

A report published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) dispelled some previous criticisms of the Baltimore Ceasefire movement’s effectiveness, instead finding there was an estimated 52 percent reduction in gun violence during Ceasefire weekends.

The study, headed by Dr. Peter Phalen of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, examined the 6,024 fatal and non-fatal shootings that occurred in Baltimore from Jan. 1, 2012, to July 6, 2019.

The researchers found that the number of shootings dipped during quarterly Ceasefire weekends that have been led by anti-violence activists since 2017.

Research suggests gun violence is heightened on weekends compared to other days of the week, the paper said.

But not only did Ceasefire weekends see a reduction of shootings in the designated three-day period, there was also no evidence of spikes in shootings in the three days immediately after (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) or during the next non-Ceasefire weekend.

“The Baltimore Ceasefire weekends may be an effective short-term intervention for reducing gun violence,” the paper said. “Future research should aim to understand the key components and transferability of the intervention.”

In addition to Phalen, the report’s authors included Erricka Bridgeford, Letrice Gant and Simon Fitzgerald, members of Baltimore Ceasefire 365, as well as researchers from Indiana, Detroit and New York City.

For just four weekends out of the year–a total of 12 days each year–community leaders and anti-violence activists have one simple call to action: “Nobody Kill Anybody.”

Baltimore Ceasefire 365 leaders hold six to 10 public meetings between each of the Ceasefire weekends to coordinate the effort, and spread the word through personal outreach on Baltimore’s streets, social media, radio, television, public events, and news articles in the lead up to the event.

Organizers encourage community members to put together peace-building activities, such as rallies, parties, vigils, poetry readings and fairs, to connect people with resources to address root causes of violence.

Community members also perform “sacred space rituals” whenever someone is killed in the city, visiting murder locations to pay tribute to the person who lost their life to violence.

Ceasefires are held on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the first weekends of February, August and November, as well as during Mother’s Day weekend in May.

Using the data on shootings from 2012-2019, researchers created a predictive model to forecast the number of shootings the city could expect on a given day.

The researchers behind the report factored into their methodology the effects of the day of the week and time of year. They noted, for example, that summer months had relatively higher rates of shootings than colder winter months like February and March.

Data reflected a spike in reports of gunshots following the introduction of “Shotspotter” technology in 2018, the report noted.

Phalen said that data may not necessarily reflect such a drastic spike of people being shot, rather it may demonstrate increased police detection of shootings based on the effectiveness of the system’s ability to detect gunshots in the city.

Although there continues to be an upward trend of gun violence in Baltimore, the study found there was a drop in shootings, ranging from one-third to as high as two-thirds, during Ceasefire weekends.

For example, the researchers’ model predicted there would be about two shootings (a range of one to three shootings) on the Aug. 2, 2019 Ceasefire day. That is compared to the approximately four shootings (three to five) predicted if there were no Ceasefire that day.

On that Ceasefire day, which occurred while the researchers were preparing their report, there were actually three shootings.

The study primarily focused on the impact of Baltimore Ceasefire 365, but it also analyzed other anti-violence initiatives in Baltimore as well as in Boston and Chicago.

Researchers pointed to two main reasons for Baltimore Ceasefire 365’s success: the fact that it is an entirely community-driven movement and that its leaders have been affected by gun violence themselves.

Other initiatives in Baltimore and other cities are affiliated with an agency or government body. But not Baltimore Ceasefire 365, and the AJPH reports argues that factor could be part of its success.

“Gun violence initiatives that are driven by law enforcement… can lead to competing goals and priorities that conflict with community concerns, program ownership, and sustainability,” the paper said.

The scientific paper also said that leaders who have been affected by gun violence themselves may be “more effective interventionists” when it comes to rallying other community members around the Ceasefire movement.

A separate study of Chicago’s Cure Violence program “found that successful violence mediation required the outreach worker to have credibility and a presence in the community,” the AJPH paper said.

The researchers pointed to possible areas of study in future studies on the Ceasefire, such as examining awareness of the Ceasefire weekend among those at highest risk, credibility of organizers, and perceived social pressures not to use violence during Ceasefires.

Although researchers looked at peace-building activities during Ceasefire weekends, they were not able to measure the impact of such activities during the rest of the year.

But the researchers said the results of the Baltimore Ceasefire 365 movement could help guide efforts in other cities and locations.

“While communities wait for effective policies to prevent gun violence, this movement has the potential to reduce harms, and future research should aim to build a roadmap for potential replication of this intervention in other jurisdictions,” the paper said.

Marcus Dieterle


Share the News