Congress of Cities to Highlight Boston's Building Peace Efforts

September 3, 2012

By Jennifer Maconochie, Boston Police Department

Building peace in an urban setting is akin to building a skyscraper: You need a solid blueprint, a team of experts in a variety of areas (engineers, electricians, plumbers, etc.), quality materials, and the right tools for the job. A construction crew understands the importance of a strong foundation, coordinated effort, hard work, and leadership at various levels. There is also a mutual understanding among crew members that building a skyscraper takes time, that the finished product will need to be durable because it will be tested by the elements, and lastly, that it will require ongoing care and maintenance. These understandings are applicable to peace-building as well.

In Boston, we have been building peace successfully for a long time. However, like many other cities throughout the country, we remain challenged by tragic incidents, as well as troubled neighborhoods that consistently experience high levels of violence. Any level of violence is unacceptable; therefore, we continue to focus our efforts in order to build the peace that our communities deserve.

Attendees at the Congress of Cities and Exposition to be held November 28-December 1 in Boston will have the opportunity to learn more about Boston's efforts during a mobile workshop session. For more information and to register for the conference, visit www.nlccongresssofcities.org.

Blueprint
Mayor Thomas M. Menino provides the blueprint for building peace in Boston through his strong and consistent leadership and vision. His unwavering commitment to and belief in our youth sets the tone for all violence prevention efforts, and his direction is clear: Identify those in need early on, connect them swiftly with necessary services and opportunities, and provide them with a safe environment in which to grow. Through Boston's participation in the Obama Administration's National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, the blueprint for preventing violence in the city has been strengthened.

Team of Experts
Like a good construction crew, a violence prevention team is comprised of stakeholders and partners with many skills and talents. In Boston, we are fortunate to have a multitude of agencies, organizations, businesses, funders, colleges, hospitals, clergy and community groups that work together on a daily basis to prevent and reduce violence. Each has something unique to offer, and each has a role to play.

Quality Materials
There are tremendous assets in Boston that serve as the quality materials needed to build peace. We have high-functioning systems of care and accountability, strong economic and workforce development (including youth employment), and rich and robust neighborhoods. Though many of these efforts may not explicitly be focused on youth violence prevention, they contribute to a vibrant and successful city that, in turn, creates capacity to reduce youth violence.

Right Tools for the Job
Just as a construction foreman wouldn't use a wrecking ball to pour concrete, nor should a city use a one-size fits all strategy to prevent youth violence. In Boston there are large number of programs and initiatives, each targeted toward a specific population, area, problem, or issue. These are weaved together in such a way as to create an overall ability to be flexible and adaptive in our approach to preventing and reducing youth violence. Examples of such programs include the Boston Centers for Youth and Families' Streetworkers Program; the Office of Jobs and Community Services' Youth Options Unlimited; and the Boston Public Schools' Acceleration Agenda; the Boston Public Health Commission's VIP initiative; and the Boston Police Department's Safe Street Teams. In addition to these and the hundreds of pro-social programs happening at schools, community centers, non-profits and churches throughout the city, there are multi-agency initiatives that are emblematic of the Boston approach. Examples include the Circle of Promise - an effort to better serve students and families from underperforming schools within a defined area; and PACT - an effort to address proven-risk individuals and their families through intervention and enforcement for identified high-risk individuals, and service provision for their children and younger siblings. Together, all of these programs and initiatives are the "right tools for the job".

Shared Understanding
The common understanding described earlier for construction crews is essentially a set of operating principles. In our efforts to build peace, partners share an understanding and belief in several key principles. It is understood that there is a need for a comprehensive and balanced approach that includes prevention, intervention, enforcement and reentry. In addition, we believe that the use of multi-agency/ multi-disciplinary partnerships maximizes results; that we should always be looking at outcomes and evaluating what works; and we support the use of both person- and place-based strategies to focus resources where they are most needed. Lastly, there is a deep commitment by all involved to promoting positive youth development, family strengthening, victim and survivor support, and community building as essential to long-term success and sustained reductions in youth violence.

Building peace is like building a skyscraper, and the sky is the limit here in Boston. We have the blueprint, the team of experts, the quality materials, the right tools for the job, and the shared understanding. Together, we are working to build a peace that is strong, resilient and sustainable. We welcome the opportunity to share some of these efforts during NLC's Congress of Cities, coming to Boston this November.