This afternoon, I joined Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, Minister Cleo Walker, and many of our community partners in kicking off Baltimore’s celebration of Youth Violence Prevention Week. From March 21 – 27, 2011, activities and events will be held nationwide to spotlight the issue of youth violence, to identify strategies to combat this epidemic, and to promote the positive role youth may have in making their communities and schools safer.
Youth violence is no stranger to Baltimore. While homicide was only the 15th leading cause of death nationwide in 2009, it was the 4th leading cause of death among Baltimore residents and the leading cause among Baltimore City residents aged 15-24 years. A report released in 2009 by the Health Department documented the trajectory of youth violence in Baltimore by looking at both victims of violence and perpetrators of violence. The study showed that 99 percent of the youth victims and perpetrators of violence interacted with one or more child-serving administrative agency in the time period preceding the violent episode. It concluded that greater agency cooperation is critical to formulating early interventions capable of effectively reducing youth violence.
In a review of Baltimore juvenile non-fatal shootings that occurred between January 1, 2001 and March 12, 2007, 7%, or 22 of 319 victims, were either murdered or shot again non-fatally within 18 months of their initial shooting. In an effort to address this issue, the City’s Safety Protocol for Juvenile Non-fatal Shooting Victims was developed approximately three years ago. This protocol was created in an effort to prevent shooting victims from being re-victimized and /or from retaliating by assessing their safety and developing and implementing safety plans. Partners involved in this collaborative effort are the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice (MOCJ), the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD), Department of Juvenile Services (DJS), the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD), and the State’s Attorney’s Office (SAO).
Recognizing violence as an important public health issue, the Health Department created the Office of Youth Violence Prevention (OYVP) in 2002. OYVP is dedicated to combating the epidemic of violence affecting our city’s young people through innovative public health programming and policy initiatives. The Office works closely with community stakeholders, state and local agencies, and public health experts on programming and citywide anti-violence initiatives to prevent youth from becoming victims or perpetrators of violence.
The Baltimore City Health Department’s Office of Youth Violence Prevention, in collaboration with city agencies and community-based organizations, is using this week to kick-off a series of events, workshops and open houses to spotlight this issue, the work being done here in Baltimore, and encourage everyone to Stand Up and Speak Out against and provide our youth with the tools they need to be successful. There are more than 70 events planned for this year’s YVP Week, including an airing of the documentary, “Concrete Steel and Paint” on Wednesday, a recognition ceremony for adults and youth making efforts to end violence in their communities, the 3rd Annual Playing for Peace Basketball tournament on Friday and a production of the play “Where Y’all At?” on Saturday.