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.

“This isn’t rocket science,” one longtime community leader said after the announcement. Indeed, the carrots-and-sticks approach in the governor’s plan builds off the same two-pronged approach that proved so effective in Boston in the mid-1990s, a period of dramatic reductions in youth violence that came to be known as the “Boston Miracle.”

“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.” 

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

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.”