In what Director Tim Stevens called a “groundbreaking” agreement, the Black Political Empowerment Project and its Coalition Against Violence have announced partnerships to combat neighborhood violence with the Pittsburgh police, the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center and the Allegheny County Jail.
CHIEF NATE HARPER
“The work to significantly decrease the violence in our communities must be an ongoing, consistent, coordinated and multi-front collaborative,” said Stevens. “Today we have some concrete commitments from these key community stakeholders, aimed at impacting the violence that continues to pervade our communities.”
Joining Stevens at the Sept. 27 press announcement at the Hill House were Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper, county jail Warden Ramone Rustin and Shuman Center Director William Simmons.
Harper said he is pleased to be a part of this initiative and praised the coalition for putting together and promoting its Strategies For Change document.
“It’s not good enough to have things on paper, you need an action plan,” he said. “We will be working on an action plan. We’re at the table.”
He added that his department is committed to contacting the directors of the Community Intensive Supervision Program to urge them to utilize the Coalition’s Strategies for Change document as part of the program’s curriculum at the various community CISP programs, for example, having dialogues and writing assignments which focus on topics covered in the CAV document. He has also agreed to provide copies of the Coalition’s Community Services Directory to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Crisis Intervention Team to both violence perpetrators and their victims as part of their referral system. “This is different from the Pittsburgh Initiative Against Crime because this focuses on youth,” he said.
Stevens added that the Strategies For Change, involving communities, schools, clergy, business and service providers take a long-term approach to addressing neighborhood violence, whereas PIRC takes an immediate surgical approach.
Simmons said it made perfect sense to pass on the information in the Strategies to the inmates at Shuman, their families, their victims’ families and their communities.
“It costs us virtually nothing to include this as part of our education piece,” he said.
Additionally Simmons agreed to distribute information to the 17+ year-old participants about the Young Adult Empowerment Program a collaborative between CCAC, Urban League of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Literacy Council and B-PEP. Shuman, he said, would also provide B-PEP/CAV with an ongoing referral list of interested youth. Consider partnering with the coalition in developing a proposed media summit and/or make a presentation for the summit, which would address negative images of young Black males.
Rustin agreed that committing to the strategies would benefit the Jail’s restorative justice programs.
“It really hits home with the offenders who want to change,” he said. “It helps with families who want their loved ones to succeed. And it helps communities to accept these people when they come back, welcome them, employ them, and help them succeed.”
Coalition member and executive Director of Prevent Another Crime Today, Valerie Dixon concluded by thanking Harper, Rustin and Simmons for their commitments.
“We can dramatically shift the paradigm from having a culture of complacency and complaint about community violence, to fostering a culture of cooperation and collaboration that can bring about lasting change and perhaps bring an end, or at least a significant reduction, in the violence and crime in our communities,” she said.
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