Between a Bullet and Its Target

Street Intervention

Trauma Exposure

and Professional Implications

Explore findings and recommendations in the executive summary.
Over the past decade Chicago’s shooting and homicide rates have surged.

Street intervention workers play a critical role in building civilian public safety infrastructure.

The work of disrupting violence, however, takes a toll. If we want safe communities, we need a healthy frontline workforce. This research examines the trauma experienced by street intervention workers and opportunities for community-based organizations to support them.

Meet the Research Team

The Project

A colleague had her car shot up and ended up losing one participant . . . I think that was the first time I actually even let into my head about the danger of the job.

In 2021 there were 797 homicides in Chicago and 3,677 non-fatal shooting victimizations. Although black residents represent approximately 30% of Chicago’s population, 81.4% of homicide victims in 2021 were Black. Violence is spatially and racially concentrated in Chicago in communities impacted by systemic racial inequality.

The 2021 violent crime stats are notable increases from 2020 (772 homicides, 3,383 non-fatal shootings), and markedly higher than the alarming violent crime rates of 2016.

In 2016 Chicago’s leaders mobilized a response to a spike in violence. In that year 762 homicides were recorded in Chicago, an 83% increase from three years prior. The Chicago philanthropic community supported the development of Communities Partnering for Peace (CP4P), a city-wide coalition of violence prevention organizations. READI Chicago (Rapid Employment and Development Initiative), a company of Heartland Alliance, also launched one of the most comprehensive anti-violence initiatives combining cognitive behavioral therapy, transitional employment, and outreach services for the highest-risk men in 3 of Chicago’s neighborhoods. A few years later the City initiated the Mayor’s Office of Violence Reduction. Central to these violence reduction efforts is street intervention work.

Street intervention work proactively engages with individuals in gangs or other street organizations to reduce their risk of violence. Workers leverage insights gained through their own experience—many were street involved, gang affiliated, and involved in the criminal justice system.

This lived experience, however, and the work of reducing community violence involves high levels of stress and trauma. Street intervention workers are first responders—frequently responding to homicide scenes, mediating conflicts, and attending funerals. And unlike other first responders, they often have shared histories with their clients.

This research explores occupational stressors experienced by 35 street intervention specialists and supervisors, the forms of trauma they are exposed to, and best practices to support them.

Advance worker support

Resources and Tools

Resources on Clinical Frameworks on Trauma and the Street Intervention Experience

Take a closer look at post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex PTSD, and continuous traumatic stress (CTS). Access guidelines for addressing trauma, tips for creating a healing centered operation, and making worker wellness a priority within your operation. Download Resources.

How do street intervention workers describe trauma?

Explore the diverse sources of trauma in street intervention workers' lives—including historical and personal trauma, as well as organizational and professional stress. Find out how to recognize, mitigate, and provide support for different types of stressors. Learn More.

How do street intervention workers respond to trauma?

See how trauma can impact street intervention workers over the short and long term, from day-to-day challenges to deeper injury. Download resources to examine trauma responses and take steps toward better supporting your individual workers, supervisors and teams. Explore Resources.

Organizational Best Practices to Support Street Intervention Workers

Access insights to help you support and develop street intervention workers throughout their careers. Based on first-hand experiences, these practical solutions can help lead your organization toward greater collaboration and performance. Download Guidance.

Study Participants' Experiences

Street Intervention Worker Facts

experienced police misconduct
witnessed a murder
seen a coworker shot
have PTSD symptoms
0 %
have witnessed traumatic death
0 %
have lost someone to homicide
0 %
have at least 1 symptom of PTSD
0 %
have experienced emotional abuse

Get in touch

Contact Us

For the full research paper, “Between a Bullet and Its Target: Street Intervention, Trauma Exposure, and Professional Implications,” or additional inquiries contact the principal investigator, Dr. Kathryn Bocanegra at

© Street Support/Dr. Kathryn Bocanegra/Jane Addams College of Social Work. All rights reserved. Participant quotes have undergone minor editing for length.

This study was made possible by a generous grant by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Site design and project coordination by Allegro Design Inc.