Violence Prevention Work Group releases report

In the weeks following the chaotic May 17 shootings that left three dead and three wounded in Louisville’s Parkland neighborhood, Mayor Greg Fischer announced the formation of a Violence Prevention Work Group, comprised of 37 members, from judges and pastors to business leaders.

For the last few months, the committees met and devised roughly 80 recommendations (compiled in this 123 page report) as to how to reduce violence in our fair city.

Not surprisingly, this report touches on pervasive, systemic themes that other thesis-length reports have attempted to highlight. As LEO reported in July, a little over 10 years ago, the Louisville Urban League and University of Louisville completed an exhaustive project that yielded 200 pages on the state of African-American youth in Louisville, along with dozens of recommendations on ways to close the education gap, improve cultural competency in schools, increase college attendance and career opportunities among at-risk youth, and build hope in struggling neighborhoods. Each recommendation came with a proposed budget. Momentum never followed.

Those involved in the work group of 2012 are quick to point out that never before has a mayor led the charge in organizing a violence reduction strategy. Fair enough.

So what are these recommendations? And what will happen now? One of the first proposals is for the Mayor to “hire a full-time Violence Prevention Coordinator who will focus on violence prevention, ensure it remains an administration priority, and work with Louisville Metro Government departments and community-based organizations to implement and coordinate violence prevention efforts throughout the community.”

The mayor says he hopes to have a “plan of action” in place over the next year, often reiterating that it will take community-wide involvement.

“Every citizen should be able to see how they can play a role in these challenges … what this is about, it’s about building a vital community where everybody’s involved. As I’ve said many times throughout my administration we are all connected. Whether you’re from the west, the east, the south, everybody is one in our community.”

All recommendations are broken down into five areas: community building, education, employment and economic development, health and social wellness, juvenile and criminal justice.

They include: focusing on economic development activity in specific areas of west Louisville, developing violence prevention programs in schools, forming programs to better integrate ex-offenders back into society, creating a young adult fatality review committee, encouraging the expansion of mental health courts. Mayor Fischer also touted LMPD’s recent reorganization that’s resulted in a VIPER (Violence Incident Prevention Enforcement and Response Team) unit that targets crime “hot spots.”

(One recommendation that seemed somewhat ironic? Ensure that west Louisville residents get a fair share of the jobs created by the Ohio River Bridges Project. Never mind that as the C-J reported, local jobs aren’t a guarantee. Furthermore, many fear this project will ultimately open up cheap, vacant land in Indiana, draining jobs and economic development from our urban core. But we digress.)

Much of the report offers context and statistics as to the issues plaguing low-income, minority youth, for example high suspension rates in schools.

Some recommendations come with potential funding streams attached. Like this:

Louisville Metro should earmark a small portion of the $3.25 million from the recent
mortgage bank settlement to provide a former abandoned building or home, newly
renovated to Neighborhood Associations in the most affected areas by violence. This
would help to strengthen resident led associations by giving them a stronger and more
visible presence in the communities …

As far as how much Metro government is willing to allocate toward violence prevention strategies and development in troubled neighborhoods? (The city faces a $20 million budget shortfall next year.) When asked, Fischer had this to say, in part:

” … The cost of violence is high in the community so we have to take a look at … shifting our resources around to accommodate the challenges that are in a report like this. There’s national funding that’s available as well. That is an issue but it’s not going to be an issue that’s going to get in the way of us developing a plan and implementing a plan.”

Certainly Metro can’t implement all these recommendations on their own. Churches, nonprofits and schools all play a role. But the legacy of this 123-page report largely rests on the political muscle needed to move it forward.


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