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Stopping Youth Violence in Seattle

July 11, 2009

We all know that there have been countless murders of youth in Seattle- mostly Black and Latino.

We also know that Mayor Nickels has rolled out the Youth Violence Initiative as an effort to stop gun and gang violence in our community.

Since its birth, the Initiative has been little more than a political hot button topic; even I have moaned, groaned and rolled my eyes at the “action” taken by Hizzoner.

The Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative will set a new direction by identifying and helping children who are at a vulnerable point in their lives. Specifically, the initiative will:

· Help youth with repeat offenses re-enter society from state detention programs.

· Provide alternatives for youth who are arrested for crimes, but released because they don’t meet the admission criteria for county detention.

· Help middle-school truants and students at risk of suspension stay in school and succeed.

· Prevent victims of violence and their friends and relatives from continuing the cycle of violence through retaliation.

My less than thrilled reaction to the Initiative changed in a single conversation with one of the key members of the program, an Outreach Specialist who is on the ground, in the schools and the streets, working to stop the sad pattern we’ve grown accustomed to.

You probably already know him, but if not, meet Earl Richardson:

Tasked with working in area middle and high schools- Richardson relishes the opportunity to engage the youth in intelligent yet laid back conversations about whatever is going on in their bubble of a world, and how it impacts those around them.

One of his favorite questions to pose: “What’s the difference between a snitch and a citizen?” he says with an expression that empowers the youth to give their honest answers.  Sometimes it comes in baby steps.

“They can tell me what a snitch is, but they don’t know how to define what a citizen is.”  Read the rest here

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