Whether it is Jamaica or Philadelphia, the issues are similar. Lives and communities scarred by violence. A disproportionate percentage of young men the victims and perpetrators of violent crime. Family and community dysfunctions contributing significantly to violence. There is moral panic surrounding violence, urgent demands that it be reduced, but no simple one solution.
At its March monthly meeting, the VPA was honoured to host Denise Clayton, former Director of the Philadelphia Youth Violence Reduction Partnership (YVRP). Her presentation was both enlightening and thought-provoking. In talking about the experience of the YVRP in Philly – a city with a historically high murder rate compared to other big cities in the U.S. – she identified some key pillars of the programmes success:
- One of the first questions is who are the right people to have at the table – there has to be higher level buy-in (judges, chief of police, representatives of human services) to make it sustainable.
- Very focused objective – murder reduction solely
- The programme’s probation officers act in a different way – each probation officer has only 25 cases and works with a street worker. The street workers are usually from the same neighbourhoods and experienced similar life challenges.
- Unlike Chicago Ceasefire – the support officers have leverage, they can return the youth partner to jail. This leverage is critical.
- The big strategy is intensive support and surveillance results in a reduction in murder. There was a marked reduction in the murder rate in all the districts the programme covers. Continue reading