|Community Meeting on Violence
October 13, 2005
There will be an all day community meeting this Saturday, October 15th, 2005, 8:30am – 4:30pm, Richmond Auditorium, (Click on RICHMOND RISES UP AGAINST VIOLENCE for more information), In response to the homicides that have plagued Richmond for the past 20 years, The goals of the meeting are to understand the risk factors for violence, change common perceptions about violence prevention and form a united coalition that includes government agencies, educators, health providers, faith-based organizations and, most importantly, community members who are all committed to ending youth violence.
With 30 homicides to date this year, Richmond will have 39 by year’s end if this rate continues. That gives Richmond a rate of 39.38 homicides per 100,000 population. The national average based on the latest (2003) FBI statistics is 5.7 homicides per 100,000. The table below shows how Richmond compares to 15 other Bay Area cities of similar size and some with similar demographics.
Trying to find a way to reduce homicides and violence in Richmond has been a perennial quest for decades. I have discussed it in half a dozen E-FORUMs just during the past two years.
In 1997, the U.S. Department of Justice funded a comprehensive study of homicides in Richmond after a flare-up in the mid 1990s that exceed by far our most recent experience. It can be found on the Internet at http://www.ncjrs.org/pdffiles/168100.pdf. City officials should turn the study into a priority checklist for action now. In 1998, the year after the study was published, Richmond homicides dropped to 18 from a high of 62 in 1991, 55 in 1993 and 52 in 1994. The Summary is reproduced below (underlining is mine):
Although the Comprehensive Homicide Initiative in Richmond, California, is still in its implementation stage, this pioneering community’s early experiences will help shape the next stages of the program.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance created the Comprehensive Homicide Initiative program not to funnel large sums of money to selected sites to start hosts of new programs but rather to catalyze local efforts focused on homicide. In practice, this focus on homicide reduction has widened to include a focus on violence reduction because homicide is understood in that larger context. In Richmond, this perspective has led to a multidisciplinary, multifaceted strategy that recognizes that homicide, and violence in general, must be addressed on fronts that encompass the needs of youth and adults in education, training, employment, and alternatives to drugs and guns.
Perhaps most compelling in Richmond’s experience is the natural extension of problem-oriented and community policing approaches to the last bastion of traditional policing—the homicide unit. Under the Comprehensive Homicide Initiative, homicide prevention and investigation are no longer isolated from the rest of policing and community crime problems. Richmond’s initiative recognizes the critical role of the police/community relationship, both in solving current cases and in devising community strategies to reduce the likelihood of future homicides.
Richmond’s implementation plan has been effective because it incorporates a wide range of goals both within and outside conventional notions of law enforcement. However, these goals, while disparate in substance, share a central theme—transforming the relationship between community and police. In preparing its homicide reduction plan, Richmond Police Department officials saw an immediate need to improve police services and a longer term need to invest in youth who are most at risk of becoming both perpetrators and victims of violence.
The Comprehensive Homicide Initiative has passed an important first hurdle in Richmond. Its early success there shows that an effective strategy can be led by an effective police department, but not by the police working in isolation. The involvement of other agencies and an active community are key ingredients, without which the most inspired police approach will not succeed.
As the Comprehensive Homicide Initiative enters a new phase in fiscal year 1998, BJA will continue to assess the Richmond strategy as a model of communitywide planning and will work with partners at the Federal, State, and local levels to develop initiatives in other sites.
One thing everyone agrees on (and you will hear this Saturday) is that crime is not just a law enforcement problem. It is a community problem that must be addressed on many fronts. All of the solutions proposed by experts include a large component that addresses providing positive and productive activities for at-risk young people.
No city, including Richmond, can shoulder the entire responsibility and cost of keeping young people occupied with activities, although Richmond does a lot with the PAL, the Summer Youth Jobs Program, the Mayor’s After School Program and newly revived Recreation Department programs and community center activities. A significant contribution to youth activities is provided by non-City organizations, including churches and other non-profit organizations. What has been missing is some means of tracking the need for programs, connecting providers with users, and evaluating the effectiveness of programs, including the cost per unit served.
I made an effort to address this challenge in 1997 with Resolution 60-97, Resolution Directing Implementation of the City of Richmond Youth Activities Project (see attached PDF file), which included the following objectives:
· Make accurate, reliable, and timely pertinent information about all youth activities in and proximate to the City of Richmond readily available to every parent and young person.
· Ensure that as broad a range of activities as possible is available to appeal to youth with diverse interests.
· Facilitate financial assistance, scholarships and transportation resources.
· Conduct a yearly evaluation of the number of young people living in Richmond, the activities in which they participate, and the rate at which their needs are served.
· Research the efficiency of various activities, including the per-youth cost of serving youth in various activities where public money is used.
Unfortunate, the Resolution has never been implemented by City staff.
Finally, I think we will find that if Richmond really wants to make serious inroads into our violence and homicide rates, we will have to create a “crime czar” position and give this person the responsibility of coordinating a community effort over an extended period. We will have to adopt measurable outcomes, such as reducing the homicide rate to some lower but achievable level, and we will have to adopt and track measurable tasks that will ultimately achieve those outcomes.
There have been a number of meetings already this year about Richmond’s violence, but no grand plan has emerged, and no one person had taken the responsibility of coordinating the effort and monitoring progress.
The West County Times story on Saturday’s meeting follows:
In response to the homicides that have plagued Richmond for the past 20 years, Mayor Irma Anderson is holding a citywide meeting Saturday that she hopes will kick off a collaborative effort to prevent youth violence.
The goals of the meeting are to understand the risk factors for violence, change common perceptions about violence prevention and, she hopes, form a united coalition that includes government agencies, educators, health providers, faith-based organizations and, most importantly, community members who are all committed to ending youth violence.
Anderson announced the meeting on the heels of an upsurge in violence that has resulted in 30 homicides so far this year.
The keynote speaker is Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, associate dean of the Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of "Murder is No Accident, Understanding and Preventing Youth Violence in America." Other speakers include FBI Special Agent Robert Lasky who will present national youth violence statistics and Richmond Chief of Police Terry Hudson.
"This is a kick-off event, it's not a one-time thing," Anderson said. "The purpose is to help us come together and agree on what causes violence and agree we all have a role in preventing it."
Anderson said she wants to create a prevention model similar to one that was successful in Boston. The long-term Boston model was instituted in the mid-1980s when the city was averaging about one youth homicide a month.
During the mid-1990s, after the model had time to take root, Boston went almost three years without a juvenile homicide. The key to the Boston model was no single solution took precedence, rather a multipronged approach in which multiple government agencies, churches, schools and health providers took part, Anderson said.
"All approaches to prevention have value and it's important we don't nay-say any of them because they all work," Anderson said. "We're going to have to come together and have people leave their agendas and egos outside. Let's put all of our resources on the table."
The risk factors for violence that will be discussed include a lack of a male role models in the home, family inability to resolve conflict, poverty and domestic violence.
"If a child experiences violence in the home and violence outside the home, you're going to have murder," Anderson said.
During the meeting, panelists will field questions and afterward there will be a youth roundtable discussion, and finally participants will break into neighborhood groups to develop action plans designed for their specific communities.
It is key that everyone realizes there are no quick solutions, no one program that will stem youth violence, Anderson said.
"Chronic violence is not a problem that emerges overnight and it's not solved with quick fixes," she said. "In Boston, it took 10 years for them to bring people together."
And the stakes for young people are high. On average, 30 people die violently in Richmond each year. Most of the victims and perpetrators are under 25 years old, Anderson said.
Among the homicides this year a 25-year-old man was shot to death in front of his 7-year-old daughter during a trip to the store. In another case a popular school employee was shot in the back after he stopped a 17-year-old male from beating his 16-year-old, pregnant girlfriend. In another case, a 16-year-old girl carrying a toddler was wounded by gunfire in front of her church.
Reducing violence will take a long-term commitment from all stake holders and the firm belief that youth violence can be prevented, Anderson said.
Contact John Geluardi at 510-262-2787 or at firstname.lastname@example.org