The Youngstown Community Initiative to Reduce Violence and the city’s police chief announced two new programs aimed to curb violent crime in the city.
C.I.R.V. is launching a School Community Center Project next month that will provide a safe space for youths on the city’s South Side.
Chief Rod Foley said the police department is going to have a call-in structure to meet with gang members or individuals at high-risk to be involved with violence crime.
“We’ve had a lull in homicides lately, but the problem is still out there festering. ... This problem has been persisting for far too long. We need to change the way we deal with violence,” Foley said.
Of the city’s 18 homicides this year, 12 have been related to group or gang violence, and about 160 individuals are causing most of the crime problems in the city, the chief added.
Using probation records and police information, Foley said he and supporting agencies, including C.I.R.V., will call individuals in and talk to them, highlighting crack-downs on other gangs, such as LSP and H-Block.
“We’ll give them a choice. You can carry on what you’re doing, and we’ll show you examples of gangs locked up ... and see if you would like to change your ways and say ‘here are the resources to do so,’” Foley said.
The C.I.R.V. School Community Center Project came about based on survey responses from students in Youngstown City Schools, said William “Guy” Burney, C.I.R.V. coordinator.
Of the 500 surveys that were returned, the No. 1 concern of students was having a place for athletics, and the No. 2 concern was having a safe place to socialize and play sports, Burney said.
The pilot project will open up Wilson Middle School and Taft Elementary on the city’s South Side on Aug. 11, 18 and 25, he said.
“We’re going to target the hot-spot crime areas. It’s just a pilot, and we hope to open schools on all sides of town and agencies during those hours,” he said.
Programming for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and seventh- through 12th- graders from 2 to 5 p.m. Registration is free.
The project is a collaboration among Refuge and Now Youngstown, the Martin P. Joyce Juvenile Justice Center and the city’s school district, police department and mayor’s office.
The schools will be staffed by volunteers, such as Joselyn Parker, 27, of Youngstown, founder of Silence Prevents Education and Knowledge (S.P.E.A.K.), an organization that focuses on character-development of young people.
Parker grew up on the city’s South Side and said she knows the challenges faced by many of the city’s youth. She’s optimistic that School Community Center Project will be successful and spread to other neighborhoods.
“We have a good connection with young people, and we’re familiar with the students and their problems,” she said.
Even if only two students come to Taft and Wilson — though Parker expects many more — then “that’s two more lives off the streets and away from violence.”