November 1, 5:01 PM click here to comment > 1
Don’t delay investments in youth
Earlier this year Seattle saw an increase in gun violence and homicides. Our response included violence prevention emphasis patrols, and each of the city’s five police precincts are using directed patrols to address criminal activity at known hot spots.
But police response is just one part of what it takes to build safe communities. We need to be working with stakeholders, from families to churches to schools to service providers, to address the root causes of gun violence.
Our work to reduce gun violence and our commitment to racial and social justice overlap. In my 2013-14 budget, I have proposed to increase funding for the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, add additional community center hours in neighborhoods where youth violence is a concern, and provide grant funding for improvements to ethnic and cultural community centers. Together, these services help improve safety, build community, and provide better opportunities for young people and communities of color.
There are multiple proposals in front of the City Council to delay or cut these important additions. One proposal would postpone the expansion of the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative and divert $150,000 of the proposed addition to a legislative department office so they can study the program, even though it has a proven track record. In 2012 we had to turn away more than 400 youth who qualified for the Initiative due to a lack of funds. The Council shouldn’t tell those kids they’ll just have to wait. Another proposal from the City Council would reduce funding for these additional community center hours, and cut the proposed grant funding for improvements to ethnic and cultural community centers.
Let me give some background on why these proposals are important. Established after an increase in gun violence in 2008, the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative assesses the needs of at-risk youth, helps them set goals, and connects them to activities, mentoring, case management, employment services, and other targeted support they need to succeed. My budget includes $1.68 million to help enroll 450 more young people in the program, bringing the total enrollment to 1,500.
The Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative has been a success – there have been no more youth homicides under the age of 18 since the Initiative was implemented. Referrals to Juvenile Court for violent crimes are dropping more rapidly for youth in the neighborhoods served by the Initiative than in the rest of the city.
This program has made a real difference in the lives of young people of color in Seattle. One SYVPI graduate, Tre Owes, talked about how the program helped give him a second chance in life in the video below:
My budget also adds after school and late night hours at seven different community centers, selected due to their ability to improve public safety by providing at-risk youth with additional safe outlets outside of school hours. The community centers were selected through a data-driven analysis of crime rates in the surrounding neighborhoods. Five of the selected community centers – Delridge, Miller, South Park, Van Asselt, and Yesler – are already connected to existing Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative activities. The Ballard and Northgate Community Centers’ hours will expand to allow access to more late night recreational programs to teens in the north and northwest sectors of the City.
Last year we also put more money into hours at the Chinatown/International District Community Center and the Magnolia Community Center. Some Councilmembers are proposing to roll back those increases. Our budget also adds grant funding for improvements to ethnic and cultural community centers, which are important gathering places and cultural sites for many of Seattle’s communities of color, including immigrants and refugees.
I believe these programs are important to building safe communities, and should be funded without delay. Many community members agree. Steve Daschle put it well in his public testimony before the City Council last week in support of the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative:
“Four years ago, when this effort was put together the City Office of Management and Planning at that time did a year of intensive study of what were thought to be best practices around the country to reduce youth violence. The results are the community networks that were put together to provide services throughout the three communities that are currently being served. The one point I want to leave with you is that the strategic error they made at that time was to suspend programs that already existed serving that population while they studied the problem. The notion of suspending the Mayor’s recommendation while you study the problem raises the same trust issues that that previous effort raised for us. I’m hoping you’ll avoid that and that you’ll adopt the Mayor’s recommendation in its entirety. One last thing: the Seattle Human Services Coalition supports the Mayor’s recommendation in its entirety and I hope you’ll adopt it. Thank you very much.”
Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn