Gregory J. Nickels (former Mayor)
SUBJECT: Mayor Nickels unveils youth violence prevention initiative
9/10/2008 10:30:00 AM
Mayor Nickels unveils youth violence prevention initiative
New strategy focuses on youth most at-risk of violence
SEATTLE – Mayor Greg Nickels announced today his 2009-2010 proposed biennial budget will include more than $9 million for a new initiative to prevent youth violence. The initiative will focus on about 800 children a year who are at highest risk of perpetuating violence or becoming victims.
This year, four teenagers have been shot to death in Seattle. “We will not stand for this violence; this has to stop,” said Nickels. “The time has come for the city and the community to fundamentally change our overall strategy on preventing youth violence. I am asking neighbors, families, schools, churches, service workers and community members to come together and join our efforts.”
The Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative will set a new direction by identifying and helping children who are at a vulnerable point in their lives. Specifically, the initiative will:
- Assist youth with repeat offenses re-enter society from state detention programs.
- Provide alternatives for youth who are arrested for crimes, but released because they don’t meet the admission criteria for county detention.
- Help middle-school truants and students at risk of suspension stay in school and succeed.
- Prevent victims of violence and their friends and relatives from continuing the cycle of violence through retaliation.
“We won’t wait for children to come to us for help; we will seek them out. Whether it’s helping them stay in school, re-enter society or manage their anger, the objective is to intervene at a crucial time in their lives and offer them a better path,” Nickels said.
While Seattle’s overall crime rate has dropped to its lowest point since 1968, the number of juvenile violent crime incidents has remained constant at about 800 a year.
“Seattle’s crime rate is at its lowest point in 40 years, but that is absolutely no solace to the families who have lost young people to violence,” Nickels said. “Easy access to guns has clearly introduced life-and-death consequences to confrontations between our children.”
The initiative is based on a review of programs in Seattle and in other cities, such as Baltimore, Chicago and San Jose. It proposes a new approach to street outreach with the use of violence interrupters who are privy to information on the street and may actually prevent violent acts and retaliation before they occur.
The initiative also calls for establishing youth centers with extended hours, giving children a safe place to go, or be taken, to stay out of trouble. The city will work closely with middle schools to add police officers in schools, improve attendance and train children to deal with conflict. The city will also support more community-based projects that engage and mentor young people.
Initiative efforts will be coordinated through three neighborhood networks in southeast, southwest and central Seattle, where indicators of future violent behaviors, such as discipline rates in schools, are the highest. These youth-focused networks will coordinate services around each child, tailoring programs to each young person’s needs.
The initiative will include approximately $3.5 million in re-directed programs and about $5.5 million in new spending over the next two years. With a goal of cutting in half the number of incidents of youth violence within its first full year of operation, the initiative will include strict measures of accountability at two levels – whether neighborhoods and schools are safer, and whether individual lives are transformed as measured by results, such as school performance and recidivism.
“The safety and well-being of our children are of paramount importance to us all,” said Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, Ph.D. “It is our collective responsibility to work with our children and our youth to address the challenges that lead to violence in our community, and to focus on prevention. We see the positive results of our recent investments in our middle schools, and we applaud this collective partnership intent on creating a safer community.”
The city will work with specific community partners to design neighborhood networks. The Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle will help design the central area network; Southwest Youth and Family Services will help design the southwest’s; and Atlantic Street Center will help design the network in the southeast.
“We need a communitywide interruption of the path we are on. It will require all of us moving in the same direction to stop kids from killing kids,” said James Kelly, president of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. “We applaud the mayor for getting us all moving in that same direction with a renewed commitment and the funds to interrupt kid violence.”
This year, Seattle police stepped up emphasis patrols, working especially closely with schools, and doubled the number of officers working in the gang unit. Nickels emphasized that law enforcement can be only part of the solution. He also acknowledged members of the faith community for their efforts and contributions.
“Our churches have always been the heart of our community with a tradition of service that goes beyond our front doors to the streets of our neighborhoods,” said Pastor Reggie C. Witherspoon of Mount Calvary Christian Center. “We are facing a crisis among our young people. We must stop the violence and give our children positive opportunities and establish programs to mentor our youth.”
Visit the mayor’s web site at www.seattle.gov/mayor. Get the mayor’s inside view on efforts to promote transportation, public safety, economic opportunity and healthy communities by signing up for The Nickels Newsletter at www.seattle.gov/mayor/newsletter_signup.htm
- 30 -