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Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative Reaches Out To Community Members

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The Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative held a conference attended by over 300 people at downtown Detroit's DoubleTree Suites on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images).
The Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative held a conference attended by over 300 people at downtown Detroit's DoubleTree Suites on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images).

Concerns over youth violence have been rising in the city of Detroit after a string of recent tragedies involving young people. A conference devoted to the issue drew a crowd of more than 300 people to Detroit's DoubleTree Suites Wednesday morning.

The Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative organized the forum with the sponsorship of the Detroit Public Safety Foundation and the Skillman Foundation. It is part of a six-city nationwide effort supported by the Obama administration, which also includes Boston, Chicago, Memphis, Tenn., Salinas, Calif. and San Jose.

The forum gave members of the Detroit steering committee a chance to update the public on their progress and to receive feedback from the community.

The gathering included city officials, such as Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. and Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, as well as students and other community members. Annie Ellington, a spokeswoman for the Detroit initiative, called the response to the conference "overwhelming."

She was especially pleased with the participation of young people, adding that other cities in the national initiative have praised and emulated Detroit's youth engagement model.

"Positive feedback from young people is sign of progress." Ellington said.

Mayor Bing echoed her sentiments about student involvement in an address to the conference.

"You, young people, you are the answer," Bing said in a statement reported by Fox 2, adding that adults need to get involved as well.

"Stopping youth violence is about parent and guardians giving loving attention to young people. It is about our faith community providing the moral and spiritual sustenance we all need," he continued.

The forum covered the four pillars of the initiatives program: Safe Routes to Schools, which coordinates community patrols to escort students to school; Operation Safe Passage, an effort which offers alternatives to suspension and expulsion to students at risk for disciplinary action; Operation Ceasefire, a program that seeks to prevent escalating cycles of violent behavior; and Summer Strategy, a partnership of different groups that provides summer employment and training to young people.

Ellington hopes the conference will result in greater community involvement. She said the Summer Strategy program needs more participation from local business and faith leaders, and students need more volunteers for the Safe Routes to Schools program.

Members of the Detroit initiative will attend a national forum on youth violence later this spring.

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