After nearly a year of planning, Mayor Greg Nickels and various members of the City Council officially kicked off the city's $8 million Youth Violence Prevention Initiative yesterday at the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club in Rainier Beach. Nickels, who managed to work in a plug for the soon to open light rail into his remarks, said youth crime is a community problem that will require a community solution. The sentiment was echoed by many of the representatives from the city's partner-organizations in the initiative, many of whom were in atttendance. Mayoral candidate, James Donaldson , however, was reportedly less than impressed.
Youth-violence wise, the community is having a pretty tough week. On Sunday, two people, one of whom was an 16-year-old female, were shot while standing on the steps of the Garfield Community Center. Both sustained non-life threatening injuries. And on Monday, three suspects, including one juvenile, were arrested in the Central District--one of the three areas of the city targeted by the Initiative--after police say the driver of the vehicle occupied by the three tried to affect an escape by running over an officer with his Lexus. According to reports, police later found a loaded handgun they say was dropped by one of the suspects. A fourth suspect escaped on foot.
Marion Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund and the latest in a series of experts brought in to consult with city leaders on youth violence, said that to truly prevent similar incidents adults need to greater responsibility for the children under their watch. The remark itself brought a cheer up from the crowd, which makes sense given that these events seem attended mostly by parents, activists and educators who, one can probably safely assume, already do. It will be interesting to how successful the Initiative is in bringing that message to those who don't.