Last spring Seattle City Councilman Tim Burgess invited David Kennedy and Gary Slutkin, two of the most prominent figures in national antiviolence campaigns, to his city to present their respective methods so that Burgess could choose the best fit for Seattle. Both men agreed to come, but not at the same time. Burgess doesn’t remember which one refused first, but he quickly gathered, both from them and from others, that there was no love lost between the two reigning kings of antiviolence.
On the face of it, it would seem that the two should have a lot in common. They both came from outside the traditional arena—neither is technically a criminologist—to pioneer innovative, attention-grabbing anti-crime programs. Both have been the subjects of profiles extolling their methods—Slutkin in The New York Times Magazine and on This American Life, and Kennedy in The New Yorker and this magazine. And both programs are called Ceasefire, a name both men claim to own. “The controversy over the name is illustrative of the deeper problem,” Burgess says. “They are two brilliant and competitive people, and they both acknowledged that there’s conflict there.” The heart of that apparent conflict, which Kennedy and Slutkin prefer not to discuss publicly: two men with big personalities, who have similar methods but different philosophies, competing for the same limited pool of funding. The disagreement between them underscores a bigger question: what is the best approach to violence prevention in America today?”