The federal government is giving the city of Seattle nearly $1 million
to explore how communities may be partly to blame for the youth violence that occurs within them.
“It is counterintuitive for a lot of people; we are going to look at crime prevention by looking at the place, and not the people who commit the crime,” said Mariko Lockhart, director of the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI), one of the agencies involved in the study.
The three-year, $968,000 grant to the city of Seattle will focus on Rainier Beach, which has one of the highest levels of youth violence in the city.
The study is a partnership between George Mason University’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Prevention (CEBCP), SYVPI, Seattle Police Department and other Rainier Beach community organizations.
About $250,000 of the grant money will be for GMU’s research on hot spots and how best to address them. About $450,000 will be used as a resource for community organizations, primarily for the Boys & Girls Club of King County in Rainier Beach, to implement non-arrest intervention strategies.
Intervention could be as practical as adding streetlights or trimming back a bush to increase visibility, Lockhart said.
The grant will be implemented in three stages: research into youth violence hot spots, community-based intervention using non-arrest tactics and evaluation of impact. She said the intervention aspect should begin in September 2013.
Cooling down “hot spots”
The project is the first to examine “hot spots” of youth violence, said Charlotte Gill, senior research assistant at the CEBCP. It is also innovative because it expands the definition of youth to include anyone under 25.
Of the 30,000 street blocks in Seattle, preliminary research found that 86 street segments accounted for one-third of all recorded juvenile arrest incidents. Five of these hot spots are in Rainier Beach. And overall, those hot spots remained unchanged over 14 years.
Heidi Henderson-Lewis, Southeast Network Coordinator of SYVPI, said she hopes the grant will provide kids with additional resources at the Boys & Girls Club in Rainier Beach, where she and other SYVPI staff act as a support system for kids.
She said there aren’t enough staff hours to solve many of the problems she sees on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s hard to go home at night when you know a kid doesn’t have a place to sleep, and you can’t just take them with you,” she said.
About 215 youth between the ages of 12 and 17 frequent the club daily, and there are about 400 kids in the SYVPI Safety Net Program, which is run through the Boys & Girls Club.
Paging Officer Friendly
Gregory Davis, volunteer executive director of the Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition, said an important aspect of the grant is engaging the police to improve mutual respect and the relationship between the street community and SPD.
“With the street community, their interaction with police is only by way of enforcement,” he said. “And so their view of the police isn’t good.”
More than 167 languages are spoken in the 98118 zip code (which includes Rainier Beach), and it is the most diverse zip code in the nation, according to the 2010 Census.