Thursday, June 25, 2009

I believe the children are our future

Barry Farm (Re)mixed blogged last week about how it takes a village to keep our youth out of jail. It has taken me longer than I expected, but I finally finished reading "A Blueprint for Action", which I blogged about last week. This is a report of findings, best practices, and recommendations to address gang violence in the District. I have to tell you, some of the information shocked me. This is something that I think ALL residents need to read and internalize; especially those of us that live in River East.

While I encourage you to read it for yourself, some of the findings that I found interesting:
  • Among 10-24 yr olds, homicide is the leading cause of death for black males and the second cause for Hispanic males
  • The absolute and relative number of juvenile arrests have increased in recent years, while those for adults have decreased
  • Most of the juvenile violent crime in PSA 606 (where the Village is located) are long the border at Penn Ave SE and the border with PSA 701 and 702, which is around Naylor Road
  • No homicides were committed by juveniles in PSA 606, but District 7 has more than their fairshare.
  • There are as many as 130 crews and gangs in the City
  • 14% of DC high school students have seriously considered suicide
  • 12% of District youth attempted suicide as compared to 6.9% nationally
  • DC graduation rate is only 43%
  • 30% of middle school student experience bullying weekly
  • More than 25% of middle school students are threatened with injury weekly
  • Highest rates of poverty, single parent headed households, child abuse and neglect, teen pregnancy, unemployment and illiteracy are concentrated in certain neighborhood in DC, especially Ward 7 and 8

I was surprised at the high suicide rates among our youth. I read that section several times just to be sure I read it correctly. Our kids are feeling hopeless and if they are our future then our future looks hopeless. I joined the Big Brother Big Sister of Washington, DC three years ago. My little sister, who will be matched with me 3 years in September, lives in Congress Heights. She is up against every risk factor imaginable. Imagine if ALL the young professionals in Ward 7 and 8 was a mentor to at least one child in Ward 7 or 8, then maybe we can save some of our children. Show them that we love them.

I would be remissed if I didn't share what the report had to say about the Fenty Administration. Despite that the best practices state that funding for programs to prevent gang violence should be comprehensive and have sustain funding, it appears our beloved mayor knows "best". To give the mayor some (though little) benefit of the doubt, it doesn't go into full detail of why some programs ended.
  • Hot-spots initiative... it was active between 2004 and 2006. It called for the coordination of law enforcement resources and city services to 14 high crime areas
  • The Gang Intervention Partnership (GIP) was an intensive and extension police and community partnership. An evaluation of the program showed that violence and homicides were significantly decreased. In 2007, Chief Lanier [Fenty Appointee] disbanded this unit.
  • Violence Intervention Partnership operated in Wards 7 and 8 between 2005 and 2008. It focused on systematic issues related to crews, gangs, truancy, and other issues by coordinating enforcement and programs such as conflict resolution. Funding ceased in 2008.
  • Second responder was a program targeting youth in Ward 7 and 8 which included family therapy, parent coaching and family meetings. [It's unclear if this program is still going on, but based on the past tense I assume it isn't.]
  • Focused Improvement Area Initiative was launched by the Fenty administration in 2007. Funding was cut in 2008 because of City deficit.

There are some programs that still exist that are mention in the report and to be fair to the Fenty Administration there are some new programs in the pipeline. Oh Mr Mayor sir.. and let me spread the accountability to the Council (specifically the 3 Ward 7 members)... if you want to be re-elected you must do better by Ward 7 and 8. WHY would you cease funding a program that has experienced measurable success to replace it with a new program that may or may not work? It seems "re-eventing the wheel" is a waste of time, energy, and money. Can't we build on what has been done?

The report lays out some recommendations. I hope that our elected officials ensure that some of these things come of fruition. I understand that times are hard, but can't we do right by our youth, our future?


  1. hmm, I hadn't gotten a chance to read about my neck of the woods but seeing your summary makes me want to go back and investigate the numbers for Barry Farms. I really respect the paragraph on accountability by our Mayor and the Council. The more residents (like yourself) question actions of our "leaders" the better off our communities will be.

  2. Barry Farms had its fairshare of homicides and violent crimes by juvenilles according to the maps on 8 and 11.