CITY OF AKRON: Today (Monday), Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Health Commissioner Donna Skoda joined together with community partners to mark the public release of Akron’s Youth Violence Prevention Strategic Plan. The plan—which was developed after more than two years of research, data collection and community conversations with neighborhood stakeholders—calls for a 20%+ reduction in youth violent crime in Akron by 2023. The Youth Violence Prevention Steering Committee is comprised of leaders from government, public health, recreation, education, law enforcement, corrections, and non-profit community organizations.
“We cannot allow violent crime among our youth to continue to devastate lives, families and neighborhoods,” Mayor Horrigan said. “Our young people are in crisis. While we have dedicated non-profits, advocates, and law enforcement agencies in our community, we must do more to coordinate all our efforts around specific, shared goals and action steps if we are going to make real progress.”
The Youth Violence Prevention Strategic Plan targets older youth, ages 15 to 24. The plan is intended to remedy the weaknesses in Akron’s continuum of comprehensive services for all at-risk youth by plugging the service gaps for youth in the targeted age range.
The Plan identifies key risk factors that lead youth to commit acts of violence, along with important protective factors that can diminish the likelihood of violent activity. These findings were used, along with crime statistics and mapping, to develop specific action steps related to the following eight Recommended Approaches:
- Recreation and Discretionary Time
- Re-entry Support
- Police-Youth Relations
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Supports and Treatment
- Gun Access Reduction
- Community Awareness and Involvement
- Capacity and Infrastructure Development
Each approach will require the commitment of various community partners. Summit County Public Health will be the lead agency on coordinating implementation of the plan among all the partners.
Health Commissioner Donna Skoda says, “Youth violence is a public health issue. It comes in all forms, from bullying, to assault, to gun violence. It deeply affects the mental, emotional and physical health of our youth, causing a wide variety of issues that Summit County Public Health works to combat every day. Many organizations and community groups have a hand in reducing youth violence, and this strategic plan offers us a chance for true and meaningful coordination. This will be a living document, one that can be updated and adjusted to best fit the needs of the community, as our work progresses.”
The City of Akron will be leading the charge on several approaches, including reducing access to guns, increasing positive recreational opportunities, and enhancing police youth relations and community awareness
“It is essential that we continue to get guns off our streets, provide neighborhood services like Midnight Basketball, and build trust between our youth and law enforcement by creating opportunities for positive interaction and open dialogue,” Mayor Horrigan continued. “As the African proverb states, ‘it takes a village to save a child.’ Likewise, it will take our entire community to save our children from heading down a path of violence. Through true coordination and real action, I believe we can accomplish a meaningful reduction in violent crime and provide Akron’s next generation with the tools and opportunities to thrive.”
A full copy of the Youth Violence Prevention Strategic Plan—including Steering Committee and Workgroup members, data graphs and maps, and a list of resources currently serving local youth—can be found at www.akronohio.gov/preventyouthviolence.