Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and other community leaders unveiled an eight-point plan Monday to reduce youth violence in the city by at least 20 percent over the next five years.

Saying too many young lives are damaged or cut short by violence, the Akron Youth Violence Prevention Steering Committee released a 73-page report detailing the problem, including providing crime statistics and maps showing where violence is most prevalent in the city, and implored the community to step forward to help.

"Like many communities nationwide, many Akron youth are exposed to the risk factors that can lead to violent behavior," Horrigan said. "Youth violence comes in all forms — bullying to assaults to gun violence — and it deeply affects the mental, emotional, physical health of our young people."

The plan, developed over more than two years, focuses on ages 15 to 24 and was devised to fill in gaps in services for that age group.

Horrigan, along with members of Summit County Public Health, Project Ujima, Akron Police Department, United Way of Summit County and other partners, announced the program during a gathering at the health agency's headquarters in Akron.

Violence is no longer a problem only for law enforcement, as the issue requires a comprehensive approach, said Donna Skoda, Summit County Public Health commissioner.

The committee recommended:

• Boosting mentoring programs.

• Providing more recreational activities.

• Increasing support for incarcerated youth who return to their community.

• Improving police-youth relations.

• Expanding mental health and substance abuse support and treatment.

• Reducing access to guns.

• Promoting community awareness and involvement.

• And developing a mechanism to share and monitor data.

Using statistics from law enforcement covering 2012 to 2016, officials mapped problem areas in the city, finding most of the crime involving suspects ages 15 to 24 occurs in west and southeast Akron. Those areas also have the highest rates of poverty, infant mortality and housing problems, said Crystal Jones, director and co-founder of Circle Services at Project Ujima.

The group hopes to reduce youth violence by at least 20 percent across all categories identified in the report: assault (4,844 reports), felonious assault (848), discharging a firearm (273), family violence (5,027), menacing (2,287), robbery (2,253), sexual offenses (615), weapons law violations (1,953) and shots fired reports (7,360).

Tim Anderson, one of the committee members and founder of the Fallen Fathers Foundation, said it will be difficult to reduce youth violence but he called the five-year goal realistic if the community focuses on it.

"With the demographic and the age range we are targeting, nothing is going to be easy," he said. "We're dealing with a demographic that doesn't trust. Getting them to buy in is going to be the biggest thing."

Akron Police Chief Kenneth Ball said city police will be a significant force behind the initiative. The department will advocate for universal background checks and waiting periods for gun owners, and training for gun dealers, he said.

Police also will improve relations with youth and fight for more significant penalties for criminals who are caught with illegal weapons, he said.

Ball noted that authorities took more than 800 guns off city streets last year.

"It wasn't enough," the chief said. "Even though we prevented hundreds, if not thousands of crimes, our neighborhoods continue to be riddled with crimes of violence."

To read the full report, go to: https://www.akronohio.gov/preventyouthviolence.

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.