ACTION STEPS | WATCH A VIDEO
A NATIONAL TRAGEDY
I wrote Blood in the Fields with the hope that people will better understand how and why young people are drawn into gang life. Even in idyllic rural America.
With understanding, I believe, people may begin to care. And with caring can come a desire to take action.
Like the overall national crime rate, youth violence has declined dramatically in much of the U.S. In fact, the rate of youth homicides in 2010 was half what it was in 1994, a time when many blamed sky-high youth murder rates on the crack epidemic.
So that’s the good news.
The not-good news is that gang membership and activity have been on the rise since dipping in 2001, and youth violence rates are consistently higher than violent crime among the general population. For African-American youths, homicide is the leading cause of death.
Gang membership in the U.S. has surged from 1 million members in 2009 to 1.4 million just two years later, according to the FBI.
Gangs are responsible for almost half of the violent crime in most U.S. jurisdictions, and up to 90 percent in some, including cities like Salinas.
And there are other costs to this terrible problem.
One of three African-American boys born in 2001 will go to prison, and one of six Latino boys now faces the same fate.
That ending youth violence and its consequences is not among the highest of our nation’s priorities reflects a shameful acknowledgement that children killing children is somehow a tolerable status quo.
This is our national tragedy.
But there is a solution, An evolving strategy commonly known as the Boston Ceasefire model is proven to quickly decrease gang shootings in cities that have applied it. (The official name is the Group Violence Intervention strategy.)
It’s now being used in a growing number of cities.
The great thing about Ceasefire is it not only lowers shooting rates, it can also help mend the historic rifts between poor communities of color and the justice system.
And by the way, I find that the people who challenge Ceasefire’s effectiveness the most are the ones who know the least about it.
So if you care about youth violence in America, please learn what Ceasefire is and how it works.
START by reading David M. Kennedy’s book, Don't Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America. It’s a great read and contains everything you need to know about what Ceasefire is and why it works.
DOWNLOAD this free how-to guide for implementing the Ceasefire/Group Violence Intervention. And there's a free article, Drugs, Race and Common Ground, about a similar strategy for dealing with illegal drug markets that's had profound effects on reconciliation between law enforcement and communities.
VISIT the National Network For Safe Communities’ website.
SIGN UP to become a friend.
ENCOURAGE your local leaders to learn about the strategy.
ASK them to join the National Network and put its methods to work.
—Julia Reynolds | photographs © Janjaap Dekker