Little Rock hires 'intervenors' to mediate street feuds

The city of Little Rock has commissioned a group of people to step into situations before they turn violent. (KATV Photo)

The city of Little Rock has commissioned a group of people to step into situations before they turn violent.

The city has three of these "street intervenors" working in problem neighborhoods.

Mayor Mark Stodola says he’s hoping these people with "street cred" can help with stopping violence and retaliation before it starts.

It’s been a summer of violence in the capital city, with Little Rock's 39th homicide happening Sunday.

Stodola says some of it has been preventable and that's exactly what they want to do.

"We can target what we consider those neighborhoods that are most susceptible to future criminal activity,” Stodola said.

The three intervenors have been on the streets for a month now.

They are not affiliated with police and aren't working to get tips for crimes, rather their focus is mediating feuds.

"Our street interrupters, people with street cred as we say, seem to be having a positive effect,” Stodola said.

While dropping a citizen in the middle of a potentially violent problem and having them mediate it might sound odd or even dangerous, Stodola says it's worked in other cities and tends to be effective because they're real people. Two of the mediators are convicted felons, but now have turned their lives around and want to help their community.

"In other words, the ability for them to gain credibility with a lot of these people is specifically tied to the fact that they are not tied to the police department,” Stodola said.

The mayor himself has even done some intervening. He visited with father of 14 year-old Cyncere Alexander, who was killed last month.

"I went and met with him to try and convince him that retaliation wasn't the way to go and he made a pledge to me that I'm thankful for that he would let the police do their job,” Stodola said.

The city plans to hire three more of these mediators. Another goal of the street intervenors is to not only prevent violence from happening, but to point those people they encounter to job and training opportunities that are available to them.

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