Big Cities Taking On a New Approach to Preventing Violent Crime

In response to escalating crime rates, officials in cities across the country are taking a more hands-on approach to keeping teens and young adults off the path toward violence.

Credit: AJ Cann on Flickr

While murder rates are trending down in New York, Los Angeles and even New Orleans, the first six months of 2012 have been a different story for Chicago and Philadelphia.

As reported by the New York Times, 240 people have been murdered in Chicago as of June 17 — a 38-percent increase from this point a year ago. And in Philadelphia, there has been 21-percent rise in the city’s homicide rate through the first six months of 2012, according to the Daily News.

These statistics have city officials both cities scrambling to devise a way to reverse the violent trends.

Many credit New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Stop-and-Frisk initiative as the reason behind his city’s declining murder rate, however this program has been a source for controversy due to questions about its constitutionality and racial implications. One approach seen as a viable alternative has been the holistic approach adopted by New Orleans featured in this week’s issue of Forefront. The city has focuseed on reforming correctional facilities and launching programs to preempt violent behavior, a strategy that a number of other cities around the country have set about adopting.

From the Forefront article:

“The statistics show once a kid is arrested and in the court system, they have an 85 percent chance of coming back into the system for something else,” said Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge Mark Doherty. “Once you have that initial contact, it’s a slippery slope.”

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has collected more than $8.5 million in unpaid debts owed to the city and using the funds to create thousands more summer jobs, slots for campers in the city’s park district and apprentice programs.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has also advocated for a similar strategy in past few months, known as Fun, Safe, Philly Summer. Nutter has pledged to keep the city’s recreation centers and libraries open and youth programs running throughout the summer, with the goal of “ensuring that young people have access to structured programs, as well opportunities for drop in activities. But he says parents need to put their plans in place as soon as possible,” as reported by the local CBS affiliate.

For the two cities — particularly Philadelphia, where over past few summers budgetary concerns have overshadowed the interests of its at-risk youth — these developments may indicate some progress on the juvenile justice front. But it may take months or even years before these measures yield dividends and the high murder rates, which cripple each city not only morally but economically, begin to decline.

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Tags: chicagopolicepublic schoolscrimemichael bloombergrahm emanuelmichael nutter

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