City Council weighs cost, effectiveness of program to reduce youth violence
The Seattle City Council is considering whether the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI) is worth the roughly
$5 million it costs to run each year.
SYVPI provides mentorship, counseling and employment opportunities to 1,000 at-risk youth in Central and South Seattle. Greg Nickels, former Seattle mayor, created the program in 2008, following a series of gun-related deaths of young people.
In 2011, a Seattle Youth Violence Prevention progress report showed that arrests and juvenile court referrals declined as much as 20 percent in the specific neighborhoods within the program.
But can SYVPI take credit for the improvement?
Current Mayor Mike McGinn asked the City Council to add 400 students to the program last fall, but Council President Sally Clark asked to delay the expansion until the council could gauge the program’s effectiveness.
Turns out that’s not easy to do. The city auditor who looked into the program told the council it was difficult to measure the information requested.
As the council met March 6 to discuss what to do next, several members involved in SYVPI asked the council to continue to fund it. Nothing can prove that this improvement is a result of SYVPI, but supporters believe the program is useful.
“It’s not that we’re just professionals who work in an office and expect the kids to come down,” said one woman. “We have to go out to the community and say, ‘Will you participate and work with our young people?’ because we need those role models to come from the community.”
Youth who have benefitted from the program came to give their testimony as well.
One asked the council to seriously considering adding funding to the initiative.
The alternative is worse, he said.
“I want you to think back four and a half years ago when the conditions that gave rise to SYVPI were evident in our community,” he said. “Kids were killing kids. What we do know doesn’t work is denying service to kids.”
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