SafeCities: Reducing Firearm Crime & Violence
Remarks by Pamela Johnson, Ph.D
I am very glad to meet with a region that has accomplished so much to reduce gun violence and pleased to be part of your discussions of what more you can do working together. You demonstrate the power of working across boundaries and the power of communities working together to make a difference. I don't know anywhere in the country where the cities and towns in a whole region are working together on such a broad scale.
I am also honored to be here on behalf of Vice President Al Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR). At NPR, federal employees have been working for the last 8 years to make government work better and cost less. And the evidence is that we have had some success. As a result of our recommendations, we taxpayers have saved $135 billion and the federal government has downsized by 17% - - there are nearly 300,000 fewer employees than there were 8 years ago.
NPR has also been about working on another challenge - - can the federal government reinvent how it works with communities? Can we change the relationship between "Washington" and America's towns and cities so that we:
We have done quite a lot to foster that vision. The federal government has eliminated a lot of the rules and regulations that hamstrung communities. We at NPR worked with Oregon and other states to find ways to focus on results rather than regulations. We initiated a Boost4Kids network to link innovative communities committed to enhancing child well-being and to streamline the delivery of services to children.
WHAT IS SAFECITIES?
A year ago, in November 1999, NPR worked with a team of federal agencies and started the SafeCities network to extend some of these lessons to public safety. This network:
WHERE ARE WE TODAY?
I think the network has accomplished a lot in a year. But let me emphasize the NETWORK - - it is the hard work of all of the communities - - with a little extra support and encouragement from being part of SafeCities.
A year ago - - we started with this book Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence that documents successful strategies from around the country. So let me use this book's outline as our checklist of what has been accomplished:
1) UNDERSTANDING THE NATURE OF THE GUN VIOLENCE PROBLEM
Promising strategies found that the most successful cities used data to understand their gun violence problems, choose a focused strategy and measure how they are doing.
I think it is fair to say that all of the SafeCities have a better understanding of their gun violence problems than they did a year ago. For example:
2) MORE COMPREHENSIVE PLANS
Of course understanding the problem is only the first step. SafeCities have expanded gun violence reduction plans that encompass prosecution and prevention. For example:
3) STRONG COALITIONS
Certainly this meeting and the involvement of the mayors of this region is evidence that reducing gun violence is not just a law enforcement issue. One of the criteria for the original selection of the SafeCities was the involvement of the broader community. The SafeCities coalitions are stronger a year later. For example:
4) EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
The SafeCities network members in meetings and on teleconferences have stressed the importance of effective communication with the community and shared what they are doing. For example:
5) OUTREACH TO YOUTH
Every city has said that reaching youth is a critical part of their efforts to reduce gun violence. I just saw two items that underscore this. A new ATF study documented that 43 % crime guns recovered were from young adults under 24! Most from 19 year olds! In addition, the New York Times yesterday reported a new adolescent health study that showed that 25 percent of youth had involvement with weapons in last year - -even 7th & 8th graders. SafeCities members have done a number of things to reach youth, including:
As you know, NPR will be no longer play the convening role for SafeCities after January. However, I am pleased that it will be continuing as a strong network and as an interagency initiative. The COPS office will be playing a larger role and will host the website and network teleconferences and meetings. The network is planning a best practices meeting for SafeCities mayors at the January meeting of the US Conference of Mayors and I hope that some of you will be able to participate.
Finally, additional cities are interested in joining - - we are trying to decide how to handle success!
But most important, is the question of what is next here in Seattle/King County and in all of the SafeCities - - because that is where the decisions are made that can make all of our citizens safer and our families and communities stronger.
That is why I am so pleased to be part of this forum - - and I look forward to our continued discussion today,
This speech, which was originally delivered on December 1, 2000, has been expanded and edited for Internet posting.