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Curbing Boston's Youth Violence

Curbing Boston's Youth ViolenceBoston– once a national model of youth violence prevention –must jumpstart its efforts following a rise in juvenile crime,says a Tufts expert.Boston

Boston [08.06.03] During the first week in July, two high-profileshootings thrust youth violence back into the spotlight in Boston.Once a national model for its preventative programs, the cityis facing a rise in violence among its young people. Curbing thecrimes, says a Tufts child development expert, will require collaborationacross the city.

“Likeit or not, we are being jolted once again,” wrote Tufts’Howard Spivak – the director of the TuftsUniversity Center for Children – in a Boston Globeop-ed.

After successfullycurbing a wave of youth violence in the 1980s and late 1990s,the city’s past success is eroding, Spivak wrote.

Boston,saysaTuftschilddevelopmentexpert,mustjumpstartitseffortstocurbyouthviolence.“Unfortunately,with success came a feeling that the problem was resolved,”he wrote in the Globe with a colleague from the HarvardSchool of Public Health. “Complacency set in, and effortswaned.”

The violencewas not far behind.

Three-year-oldKai Leigh Harriott and 15-year-old Tony On were both shot withinfive days of one another, propelling the issue of youth violenceto the center stage in Boston.

“Whilethings are not nearly as bad as they were in the late 1980s andearly 1990s when the need to respond was urgent, there are clearlywarning signs that all is not well,” he wrote. “Overthe past year we have seen a growing number of children and teenagerskilled or severely injured by gun violence at levels we have notseen for awhile. The recent shooting of Kai Leigh Harriott isthe most current reminder that we cannot relax and continue torely on the successes of the past.”

City leadersand community organizations need to work together, wrote the Tuftsexpert.

“Wemust reinvigorate our efforts and get back to basics,” Spivak,who is chief of general pediatric and adolescent medicine at Tufts-NewEngland Medical Center, wrote in the opinion piece. “Wecannot fall back on any one or two ‘magic programs’that were misleadingly and inaccurately given credit for the city’ssuccess. Everyone must have a role and take responsibility fortheir part in making this city safer for all children and youth.”

Among thekey groups: schools, faith-based organizations and, most importantly,young people.

“Youthmust be involved, as must families, especially those who understandthis issue at its most intimate level – those who have experiencedthe consequences of violence and violent death,” Spivakwrote in the Globe. “They are the heart and soulof the movement; they bring passion and commitment that can teachall of us.”

Spivak suggestedthat schools remain open after classes finish for the day to providesafe environments and that neighborhood groups increase the safeactivities they provide for kids. The presence of adult role modelsand supervisors is critical.

“Youngpeople need jobs as well as clear opportunities to contributeto their communities, again with the involvement of adults asrole models and for safety,” he wrote.

Short termcommitments won’t be effective over the long-run, he wrote.

“Wedon’t just need a summer of responsibility – we needa lifetime of responsibility,” Spivak wrote in the Globe.





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