Did you know that the lifetime risk of imprisonment by age 35 for African American men who do not complete high school is 70%? This is an astounding statistic. Educational attainment is one of the top societal investments to prevent violence, increase earnings and live a free life.
As a member of the Steering Committee for the Mayor’ Office of Violence Prevention (OVP), we are looking at a large systems approach to violence prevention in a year that will more than likely see record breaking numbers of homicides and other violent crimes.
Arnold Chandler of Forward Change presented a riveting presentation culled from numerous field studies of what strategies work, and what don’t, in a broader prevention system. Some strategies that work are not for the reasons we think. Youth employment programs decrease youth violence by 50% when combined with cognitive behavioral based programming, and have impact for two years following the initial employment. We think youth employment is important because it creates career exploration and work skills, but studies show its biggest impact is long term deterrents to violence.
What can each of us do to create a safer, more equitable community? This level of change looks incredibly hard at the individual level. But there are actions we can take that cumulatively make a big difference. The GMC has supported the Mayor’s Earn and Learn program for years. There is always more young people who want to be in the program than there are funds to support. We are looking at new approaches to internships, learning experiences and summer youth employment that work in today’s world of increased regulations, privacy issues and leaner teams to still provide a transformative experience for the young person and the employer.
The Safe Zone approach is another proven strategy that prevents violence from happening on the ground level. There is the opportunity to expand and further test this model over this coming summer.
There will be more to come from the Steering Committee under Reggie Moore and the Prevention Institute’s guidance, but for now if we want a safer Milwaukee, let’s invest in summer jobs and safe zones in Milwaukee.
Greater Milwaukee Committee