Police have invaluable data to share with community-based youth organizations. Police Departments can map the times, days and places where crime most occurs as well as the ages and genders of the perpetrators and victims. This data gives community-based organizations like Dorchester Youth Collaborative (DYC) where I work the data we need to provide “targeted prevention” programs for youth.
We have a center that is located in an area designated by the Boston Police department as a violent crime “hot spot”. We are open afternoons, evenings and Saturdays when most juvenile crime occurs. Youth can stop by to talk and get something to eat or participate in activities such as Break and KRUMP dance, sports, acting and community service/leadership. We also have a media arts program where youth learn to create high impact positive media products that address problems they face, such as violence and poverty.
We believe that every youth who lives in a high crime area should have the opportunity to go to a Safe Haven youth center during high crime hours. There is a virtual 100% probability that these youth will be witnesses to violence, victims of violence, and recruited to join gangs. It is normal for teens to join groups. If we don’t organize them, gangs will.
We also believe that every GED program in the nation should offer a work study option. DYC runs Safe City Academy (SCA), which is a work/study GED program for unemployed high school dropouts. During the day, we organize students into the Mayor’s Clean Teams and they keep up the exteriors of city-owned foreclosure properties. In the evenings, they take academic classes to prepare for the GED exam. Students can earn up to $100 each week if they complete all their courses and work training experiences. SCA is a powerful program that gives street oriented youth a second chance.
Another example of a powerful targeted prevention program is the Safe Neighborhood Initiative (SNI) in Boston, which brings prosecutors, residents, public and community-based service providers together to discuss the roots of crime in specific high crime areas. A prosecutor is assigned to all cases from this area. Quickly the prosecutor sees who and what is driving crime in the area. For example, individuals who are gang leaders may have little or no criminal records because of victim and witness intimidation. Through SNI, prosecutors know to devote precious prosecution resources to these gang leaders.
Focusing on youth violence prevention in high crime areas is one way we are working to make our communities safe and provide positive youth development activities for Boston’s young people.
Emmett Folgert is the founder and executive director of the Dorchester Youth Collaborative (DYC), where he works to create workforce training programs for youth with criminal records as well as direct service to street gangs, runaway homeless youth and substance abusers.