Memphis' "comprehensive youth violence prevention and reduction strategy" includes a string of initiatives that has Mayor AC Wharton Jr. drawing upon fire-fighting tips this week.
"When there's a fire in the kitchen, you don't point the fire extinguisher at the flames on the ceiling or the walls," said Wharton, who highlighted the city's strategy on Wednesday during a visit to Memphis by a team of federal officials.
"You aim at the grease below that's feeding the fire," said Wharton. "You aim at the base. That's how you put the fire out....With these initiatives, we are aiming at the base."
Federal officials from the White House and the Departments of Justice, Department of Education, Corporation of National Community Service, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor are in Memphis this week meeting with Wharton and local leaders on Memphis's efforts to implement its comprehensive youth violence prevention and reduction strategy.
What's in the strategy?
According to Memphis officials, more resources and funding recently have been allocated in high-crime areas such as Frayser and Northaven to address blight and neighborhood deterioration. The additional funding will support a campaign between local government and community leaders to fund revitalization strategies – demolitions, home improvements and reuse of abandoned buildings. The infusion of funds in the Frayser and Northaven communities are designed to provide a safe environment for children before an act of crime or criminal behavior occurs.
Memphis is one of six cities participating in the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention launched by President Obama in 2010. The cities are using multi-disciplinary partnerships, balanced approaches and data-driven strategies to engage youth and to reduce violence.
Memphis's youth violence plan is a component of Operation: Safe Community 2012-2016 Goal #5 Reduce Youth Violence. Supported by public and private partnerships, the goal highlights 13 enforcement, suppression, intervention and re-entry strategies. The strategies are aligned with several public safety initiatives including the Memphis Police Department's Community Outreach Program, Community LIFT, and the Shelby County Defending Childhood Initiative (DCI).
The federal team's five-day visit to Memphis was crafted scheduled to include "The Fatherhood Connection," a round table discussion on local fatherhood initiatives and their community. Also on tap was a symposium on youth re-entry, moderated by Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole Chairman Charles Traughber, and visits and observations of several DCI partner organizations, including the Memphis Child Advocacy Center and Family Safety Center.
The mix also includes the "United by Faith" Police & Clergy Conference, emphasizing effective communication, relationship-building and coordinated collaboration between police and clergy.
The federal partners in the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention are the Departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
In addition to Memphis, the other participating cities include Boston, Chicago, Detroit; Salinas, Calif., and San Jose, Calif. The cities were selected based on need, geographic diversity, as well as willingness and capacity to undertake the comprehensive efforts that are the hallmark of the forum.
City officials say Memphis has demonstrated its commitment to reducing youth violence over the long run by investing significant amounts of time and energy to plan and implement strategic and data-driven strategies.
Wharton and Bill Gibbons, Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner and Operation: Safe Community Chair, first presented Memphis's comprehensive strategy to address youth violence and gang activity at the Summit on Preventing Youth Violence, April 4-5, 2011, in Washington, D.C.
(More details about the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention and summaries of the city plans are available at: www.findyouthinfo.gov or http://operationsafecommunity.org/theplan.)