Patrick proposes youth violence prevention plan
Governor proposes a mix of “carrots” and “sticks” to combat the problem
Gov. Deval Patrick, who said prevention of youth violence would be one of the priorities of his second term, laid out his plan for tackling the problem at a Mattapan community center this morning.
Patrick called for a new set of gun laws to aggressively target those perpetrating violence in Massachusetts cities, and he is proposed $10 million in new spending to support programs that work to deter at-risk youth from gun and gang involvement. This will allow leaders to “develop a tailored strategy for each community to restore the peace,” he said, flanked by other elected officials, law enforcement officials, and community group leaders from across the state.
The proposed laws would create three new gun offenses: assault and battery with a firearm, assault with a firearm, and a “felon in possession” law that is similar to an existing federal statute. Meanwhile, the proposed new prevention funds would be allocated on a competitive basis in response to grant proposals from cities most affected heavily by youth gun violence.
“It’s important to raise up neighborhoods as we take down violence,” Mayor Tom Menino said at the event, referring to programs to help young people with job skills and education.
Speaker after speaker emphasized the importance of collaboration across various sectors of government and between government offices and community-based organizations.
Why come together to do this work, asked Patrick. “In 2007, a 13-year-old boy named Steven Odom was shot and killed coming home from playing with his friends. A few days later, an 18-year-old believed to have killed Steve Odom was himself shot and killed by a 19-year-old,” said Patrick. “It’s happening across the Commonwealth. It’s not OK.”The tragic death of Steven Odom, an innocent victim caught in a gang shootout in his Dorchester neighborhood, may have been a catalyst for the governor as well as the community. In the days immediately after his killing, Odom’s mother, Kim, called out the governor, who himself grew up in a tough Chicago neighborhood, for not addressing the horror of what was happening to families like hers. A publicly chastened Patrick quickly arrived at the Odoms’ door.
“Perhaps that started something,” Kim Odom said this morning at the Mildred Avenue Community Center following the governor’s announcement. “I’m taking him at his word,” she said of Patrick’s pledge to drive down youth violence through his new plan, dubbed the Massachusetts Safe and Successful Youth Initiative. We are “going to hold him accountable,” she said. Picking up the collaboration and teamwork theme of the morning, she added, “But it’s not just him – it’s all of us in this room.”