The city of New Orleans is grappling with a surge in gun violence and homicides, prompting officials to seek effective solutions. In a recent meeting, the New Orleans City Council discussed the alarming rate of violent crime in the city, which currently holds the highest homicide rate in America. The meeting lasted six hours, with community members expressing their frustration and concerns about living in what they perceive as a war zone.
Calvin Pep, a former resident of New Orleans’ 7th Ward, has been actively working as a violence interrupter for nearly a decade. His role involves engaging with residents, mediating conflicts, and preventing violence before it escalates. Pep is part of a growing movement in American cities that emphasizes the importance of community involvement in curbing gun violence. This approach has gained attention at the national level, with the Biden administration allocating significant funding towards community violence intervention.
However, the situation in New Orleans has been complicated. Pep left his position in 2020, citing increased city involvement in the violence interrupter program as the reason for its decline. The program was subsequently scaled back, coinciding with a rise in homicides. Dr. Jennifer Avegno, New Orleans’ director of health, acknowledges the challenges of relying solely on violence interrupters and highlights the need for a multifaceted approach to address gun violence.
The city’s current plan includes distributing biometric gun locks and establishing a non-police-based 911 team. Additionally, the Health Department will run a new intervention program based out of the hospital, utilizing hospital employees as interrupters. The goal is to break the chain of violence and mitigate its downstream effects.
While the interruption program experienced setbacks, community members and officials remain committed to finding effective solutions to the ongoing issue of gun violence in New Orleans. The street team, including individuals like Calvin Pep, is expected to resume their work in the future. Despite the challenges, Pep continues to walk the 7th Ward daily, offering hope and support to those affected by violence.