The following is an opinion piece from State Senator Katherine Clark.
This month we have once again witnessed the devastating impact of gun violence on our children – right here in our district. On the morning of September 10, a shooting occurred in Malden in a restaurant parking lot. Both the alleged shooter and victim were only 17 years old.
No community is immune to violence. Even one shooting is one too many, and we have seen far too many incidents of gun violence, including a fatal shooting in Reading last year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that although rates of youth homicide have declined in recent years, homicide remains the second leading cause of death among youth aged 10–24 years in the United States, and violence is a major cause of nonfatal injuries among our youth.
When these senseless crimes happen in our communities and involve our young people, they are difficult to comprehend. But one thing is clear: we must continue to work to prevent future violence, and these crimes demand a community-wide response.
Law enforcement clearly has a leadership role, and our police departments are working together to prevent violence and keep us safe. The City of Malden has already acted to add police officers to its force and to step up regional coordination. Malden has been quick to solve many of these crimes and has active crime prevention and community policing programs. In addition, the cities of Malden and Melrose are members of the Metro Mayor’s Coalition (MMC), a voluntary forum comprised of 13 cities to exchange information and create solutions to common problems. Among other initiatives, the MMC has established the Metro Mayors Shannon Grant Community Safety Initiative that works to find regional solutions to combat youth violence, gang violence and substance abuse. The program coordinates regional law enforcement efforts, including street outreach workers, job training programs, and after-school programs.
As this initiative and others make clear, prevention is vital. Our school systems, houses of worship and many community-based organizations are leading the way by working with our students, supporting families in crisis, and raising awareness about all aspects of violent behavior, including related issues like substance abuse. You can learn more from organizations like the Melrose Alliance Against Violence (www.maav.org), the Wakefield Alliance Against Violence (www.waavonline.org/), the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse (www.edline.net/pages/ReadingPublicSchools/Community/RCASA), the Stoneham Boys and Girls Club (www.bgcstoneham.org), the Malden YMCA (www.ymcamalden.org) and the YWCA (www.ywcamalden.org), and there are many others.
Both prevention and effective law enforcement require financial support, and I believe the state has a responsibility to provide it. In the FY 2013 budget, I was proud to support $6.25 million in funding for the Shannon Grant program, a state grant program that provides resources to communities to implement a multi-disciplinary approach to youth violence prevention, as well as funding for the state’s Safe and Successful Youth Initiative, a grant program that fills the gaps in services available for the highest risk populations. I also supported a new state police class, additional police staffing grants, and an increase in funding for District Attorneys.
Additionally, we increased funding for programs like YouthBuild, School to Career Connecting Activities, summer jobs for at-risk youth, and after school and out of school grants, that provide youth with more opportunities to learn, work, and lead. By empowering our youth through supportive partnerships, we can help create more peaceful neighborhoods.
The bottom line is this: youth violence affects us all, and it does not respect city borders. This challenge is ours, and, working with our community partners, we can prevent youth violence and create safer communities.