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Youth violence forum brings agencies together

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Youth violence can be an intensely emotional issue, and it can also be an overly academic issue, a discussion of science and statistics.

James P. Griffin, Jr., a doctor at the Morehouse School of Medicine, said he hopes, however, to bring together the human and the scientific aspects of the conversation at the metro-wide forum on youth violence prevention Friday morning.

"We're going to put a face on it and make sure it's sound, scientifically," Griffin said. "We're going to look at solutions to youth violence, known solutions, and examples of what people are doing around Atlanta."

The Metropolitan Atlanta Violence Prevention Partnership is holding the forum, which organizers say will bring together more than 200 "stakeholders" from six metro counties, including Clayton. The forum is intended to build metro-wide partnerships working on solutions to youth violence.

"Violence among our young people is not just an Atlanta problem," said Dexter Chambers, from the Atlanta City Council Office of Communications. "It's not just a Clayton County problem. It's everybody's problem ... The goal is to bring everyone together in a collaborative effort, to come up with ways of preventing youth violence, which seems to be a growing problem."

Chambers cites recently released statistics from the United States Department of Justice, which show that violent crimes increased in 2005, and then again in 2006. Gang violence and youth violence were listed, Chambers said, as the top two reasons for the crime rise.

"If we don't stop them or prevent them now," Chambers said, "what are we to expect once they become adults? Where are they getting it from? Where do they get the guns from? We have to address these issues. Why would they go out and rob someone? I mean, why would that happen?"

The Friday forum, however, will not stop with just questions. Organizers emphasized there are solutions, and those solutions are best implemented across jurisdictional lines.

In addition to presentations by former gang members, and mothers who have lost children to youth violence, Griffin said attendees will hear about scientifically studied solutions.

The first step toward preventive measures, Chambers said, is the forum and other ways of bringing organizations together and getting them to begin cooperating. "Having agencies from all six counties there, in the same room, is the first step to accomplishing this. This is the first collaborative effort made to bring all these agencies under one roof," Chambers said.

Clayton County Juvenile Court Judge Steve Teske agrees, saying the "first key" in the reduction and prevention of youth violence is to get collaborative partnerships.

"The problem of youth violence is multi-dimensional," Judge Teske said. "If we know that the only way to resolve the issue of youth violence is to bring in and address these multiple factors, and these multiple factors are dealt with by these different agencies, and they're not talking together, then that means we have to change the way we do things. I am a very big supporter of collaborative effort."

The Youth Violence Prevention Breakfast and Forum will be held from 7:30 a.m., until noon, on Friday, at the Adamsville Recreation Center, 3201 Martin Luther King Jr., Drive, S.W., in Atlanta. The event is free and open to the public. To reserve space, call (404) 752-1523.