ST. LOUIS — The City of St. Louis is moving forward with its program aimed at interrupting violence in three neighborhoods and the group Mission St. Louis will help lead the charge. 

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment approved a contract with the organization Wednesday. It will be the new community violence intervention provider, carrying on the work of Cure Violence in the city.

The program began in St. Louis in 2020 and trains people, who are referred to as violence interrupters, in local communities to look out for conflicts and then intervene if they believe those incidents are likely to result in violence.

Starting Sept. 1, Mission St. Louis will pick up the role previously help by Employment Connection and the Urban League. 

The city also has a contract with LIVE FREE USA, the technical provider that will replace Cure Violence’s role. This position helps provide Mission St. Louis with information on best practices from across the country, training and more.

Wil Pickney, Office of Violence Prevention Commissioner, stressed residents should not expect a disruption in services.

"This does not change the work itself, the work is still about looking at a defined geographical area, engaging high-risk individuals, and that work will continue as it did before," said Pickney.

Mission St. Louis has been around for 16 years and has had a long history of working on the ground in communities across St. Louis. 

“Our heart has always been around education and workforce development. Anytime you are battling poverty, that goes hand in hand with violence,” said Jason Watson, Senior Vice President of Engagement for Mission St. Louis.

The contracts with the previous providers ended in July, and violence interrupters have been working on an independent contract basis during the transition period.

Pickney said his office put out a request for proposals in March to revisit its approach to community violence intervention work in the city. He explained Cure Violence did not submit a proposal.

Based on the city’s analysis, he said the rates of violence have been decreasing in the city, and in the three Cure Violence areas of Dutchtown, Walnut Park and Hamilton Heights/Wells Goodfellow, violence is decreasing even faster. 

While he noted there are several crime-fighting strategies being deployed in the city, he added, "there is no question that the program has had an impact in the communities in which it existed.”

City data states between May 2022 and Jun. 2023, Cure Violence St. Louis performed 398 interruptions involving 1,042 individuals. The group didn’t record the number of interruptions before that period.

Critics of Cure Violence question the program’s impact on crime. Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, evaluated the program as of February 2022 and said he did not find it contributed to declines in violence. 

The Office of Violence Prevention Commissioner said Washington University in St. Louis is working on an analysis of the program. 

He pointed out that with this type of work; it is hard to quantify and understand its impact. 

“One shooting that is deterred is a positive outcome,” he said.

A member of the Dutchtown neighborhood took to social media voicing concern about the city ending its relationship with Employment Connection.



Leaders at Mission St. Louis say they are well positioned for this work. 

“For us, we recently have been focusing really heavily on what it looks like to engage community. When the RFP came out, it lined up with where we were as an organization,” explained Watson.

When it came to choosing Mission St. Louis, Pickney said he liked it incorporated what a plan to care for the workers who have high-stress jobs and often encounter a large amount of trauma. 

"The compensation for the workers was something that stood out. In many places in the country these workers are severely underpaid for what they do, and so they deserve to have a fair wage for putting their lives on the line,” explained Pickney.

The next steps for the new partnership will include conversations on how LIVE FREE USA can support Mission St. Louis’ efforts and also training. 

The Office of Violence Prevention will assess data to make sure the program is still focusing on the right locations. Pickney said a new neighborhood may even be added.