The National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention (the Forum) is an interagency effort for localities to share knowledge and experience in what works and what doesn't work in preventing youth and gang related violence. Six cities are part of the Forum: Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Salinas, and San Jose. These cities have developed comprehensive strategic plans that blend prevention, intervention, enforcement, and reentry. Federal agencies are offering interagency technical assistance and are working together to support promising efforts at the local level.
A recent round of federal site visits highlighted the successes of these cities implementing their plans. Each city planned well thought-out site visits that allowed the federal teams to get a better understanding of local progress. The site visits included neighborhood tours, press conferences, visits to local programs, meetings with stakeholders – including youth – and plans for next steps. Each city has also taken strides to further engage their local business, philanthropic, faith- and community-based partners.
In Boston, one focus of the site visit was data collection and information sharing and coordination to align services and bring together existing initiatives. The city team is working to be very intentional about how all of the youth violence prevention-related initiatives are connected to the city’s plan.
A highlight of the Detroit site visit was a meeting at an area high school between students, federal and local staff and volunteers, and the Chief of Police. One addition to Detroit’s plan is the implementation of the Safe Routes program, which guarantees that volunteers will be patrolling walking routes and bus stops before and after school.
In Memphis, the federal team was able to tour the Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Courts. The city has successfully diverted many of the low-level offenders and their detention centers have been able to operate at approximately 40% of their available cells. The prevention component of the Memphis city plan has a goal of increasing participation in high quality prenatal and early childhood programs, with a focus on family strengthening and improved parenting skills.
One focus of the Salinas youth violence prevention team is on reducing the effects of witnessed violence on children in their community. The federal team offered resource tool kits to educate first responders about how to talk to young people at the scene of a violent crime. Connecting young people to employment activities is another way the Salinas plan is aiming to facilitate positive transitions to adulthood.
In San Jose, the county is conducting a longitudinal study of recidivism rates – the first of its kind in the county – and results are expected in late fall 2011. These data will supplement the city’s plan to reconnect disconnected youth with schools, families, and communities. The ultimate goal is to provide young people with the supportive and healthy environments they need to learn and grow.
The cities involved in the site visits received positive press and increased visibility of their planning and implementation efforts. Many cities have also successfully received additional funding to support the implementation of their plans.
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