Last week, the White House, U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education hosted the first working session of a new National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention. The convening brought local leaders from six cities to Washington, D.C., to explore effective strategies for curbing youth and gang violence.
Through this pilot initiative, multiple federal agencies will work with city leaders in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Salinas, Calif., and San José, Calif., to support the implementation of comprehensive, citywide youth violence prevention plans. These plans will be presented at a Youth Violence Summit in Washington, D.C., next spring.
"Our effort to combat youth violence isn't about federally imposed fixes, it's about changing the way we do business on this critical public safety issue," said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who met with the forum on Tuesday, Oct. 5. "This administration will continue to do what it takes to reclaim our communities and our youth from crime and violence. The lives of our nation's children are at stake."
"We know that if children aren't safe, then they can't learn," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who met with the forum last Monday. "We all have a stake in public safety and a responsibility to keep our children out of harm's way."
The working session created an opportunity to share successful approaches underway as well as major challenges facing each city.
"This forum provides not only an occasion for the federal government to assist cities, but also a platform for the cities to learn from one another," said White House Domestic Policy Advisor Melody Barnes.
Forum Modeled on California Network
The forum is inspired in part by the work of the California Cities Gang Prevention Network, a 13-city initiative launched in 2007 by NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
The network seeks to reduce gang violence and victimization through cross-city peer learning, identify and implement best practices and initiate state and federal policy changes that support effective local strategies. Two of the six forum cities - Salinas and San José - also participate in the California network.
Both groups bring together diverse stakeholder teams that include mayors and other municipal leaders, police chiefs, prosecutors, probation and other law enforcement officials, school superintendents, county and state leaders, social service and public health agencies, researchers, foundations, community and faith-based organizations and the business community.
Both forum and network teams are charged with developing and implementing plans that adhere to several core principles: multi-disciplinary partnerships; balanced approaches that blend prevention, intervention, enforcement and reentry; and use of data-driven strategies.
With full backing from the White House, federal agencies participating in the forum - such as the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, Labor and Housing and Urban Development, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - will seek to identify innovative policies and practices to support local anti-violence efforts, and coordinate existing resources more strategically to address unmet local needs.
As federal agencies help forum cities change the way they do business in preventing youth violence, they have made a similar commitment in order to better assist city leaders.
NLC released a statement commending the Administration for its focus on youth violence prevention.
"City leaders place top priority on the safety of children and youth," said NLC Executive Director Donald J. Borut. "This forum will not only help the six participating communities stem youth violence, but will also identify effective strategies that can be applied in cities across the nation. NLC applauds the Administration's support for intergovernmental partnership and collaboration in confronting this national challenge. We look forward to working with the Administration to explore promising approaches and share them with our members."