Officials in Wilmington Delaware released a report today that will serve as a blue-print to tackle gun violence committed by juveniles.
On Friday, Wilmington City Council President Hanifa Shabazz announced six new recommendations that will be used to prevent youth violence and promote positive development among children.
Shabazz was joined by Mayor Mike Purzycki, Governor John Carney, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, and Rita Landgraf, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services.
“The hard part is in front of us but I am really confident that with the leadership that we have and the buy in of all the members of council, members of the legislature and members of county council we’ll be able to do what’s necessary,” Gov. Carney said.
In 2013, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention was called into Wilmington to study gun violence among youth from a public health perspective. By 2015, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services formed a council of 38 representatives that used CDC data to create the following six recommendations:
• Creating violence-free environments and build stronger community centers• Develop a referral system for at-risk youth• Develop pathways of success for troubled youth• Protect youth though programs to deescalate conflicts and retaliation• Integrate social services• Address policy issues that have unintended adverse consequences for youth
“Up until this point, you know we’ve been reacting. We have been reacting to the trauma that we have seen in our city,” Landgraf said.
According to the National Survey for Children’s Health, there are nearly 20,000 children living in the city, and more than 60 percent of them have experienced trauma. It hits too close home for Shabazz, who initially reached out to the CDC to take a look at the violence.
“The decision to reach out to the CDC to investigate the epidemic of homicides in Wilmington was both personal and part advocacy driven. My family has experienced firsthand the pain and suffering caused by violence.” Shabazz said.
The goal is to intervene earlier before young people are exposed to more trauma or high-risk situations. Officials are taking a public health approach to helping children as early as four years old.
“I look at this as an opportunity to re-imagine the solutions to dealing with the problems that afflict our neighborhoods,” Purzycki said.
According to Landgraf, Wilmington may be used as a model throughout the state and eventually neighboring cities after the CDC’s research on youth violence from the public health perspective.
“This is the only work of this kind that has been promoted throughout the United States of America, so all eyes are on us,” Landgraf said. She added that the full report is available now online.