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  Follow-Through and Accountability for Violence Reduction
November 20, 2005

Richmond logged its 33rd homicide of 2005 today, putting the City on track for an annual rate of 37, just one less than 2004. Although this year is marginally better than last and better than some others within the last decade, the fact remains that the City of Richmond has been plagued seemingly forever with homicide rates that substantially exceed the national average of 5.7 per 100,000.


No matter how you parse it, Richmond is truly the Bay Area (and maybe California) capital of homicides and violence. Experts agree that this state of affairs is a public health problem that threatens the lives and health of at-risk individuals, the economic well-being of the City, the image and reputation of the City, the City’s prospects for economic development and the quality of life of its residents.


A number of studies and conferences over the past decade have arrived at remarkably similar recommendations for effective violence prevention strategies, including the 1994 Preventing Violence in Contra Costa County: A Countywide Action Plan, the 1997 Strategies for Reducing Homicide: The Comprehensive Homicide Initiative in Richmond, California, the 2005 Richmond Black-On-Black Crime Summit Final Report and most recently, the 2005 Richmond Rises Above the Violence Conference with keynote speaker Deborah Prothrow-Stith, M.D, who directs the Community Violence Prevention Project that recently published "Peace by Piece: A Guide for Preventing Community Violence," based on the experiences of successful prevention programs across the country.


Violence in Richmond is not just a police problem. Experts recognize that violence prevention must involve a multi-year, multidisciplinary, multifaceted strategy that recognizes homicide, and violence in general, must be addressed on fronts that encompass law enforcement as well as the needs of youth, adults and families in education, training, employment, and alternatives to drugs and guns.


In order to succeed, such an undertaking must include quantifiable and measurable commitments and long term perseverance from all levels of government, schools, faith based organizations, community non-profit organizations, neighborhood organizations and parents. An effective violence prevention program must include a single point of responsibility for coordinating and monitoring theses commitments.


In past efforts to address homicides and violence in Richmond, there has been no follow-through and no accountability. I have joined my City Council colleagues in resolving to make an unprecedented effort for long-term violence reduction in Richmond, not just limited to what the City of Richmond can do, but offering leadership to every person and organization in our community.


I believe the time has come for the City of Richmond to establish the position of “violence reduction coordinator” with a 10-year commitment and to recruit an individual to fill it who has the qualifications and experience to coordinate and monitor all violence reduction efforts by all participating parties within the City of Richmond.


I am recommending that the City of Richmond commit to initial funding of the position with an appropriation not to exceed $200,000 for salary and benefits and will seek participation in the cost from other governmental organizations and grants from every possible source to provide continuous funding with the goal of reducing violence in Richmond incrementally to the national average rate or lower during the next 10 years.


I believe that that the violence reduction coordinator should report to the Richmond City Council on a monthly basis on the progress of each participating entity in meeting its quantifiable and measurable goals and objectives and in progress in reducing violence to the national average or below.