Seattle’s youth violence prevention campaign is getting national attention, featured at a U.S. Justice Department conference this week. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was a featured speaker, sharing his passion for stopping gang violence.
The coach offered opening remarks Friday morning at the 3rd annual Summit on Preventing Youth Violence. He’s a successful motivator of young athletes, having won multiple national championships at the University of Southern California. During his time as coach there, he often ventured into dangerous Los Angeles neighborhoods, talking to gang members.
“You can quiet this thing down,” Carroll told gang members as cameras rolled for a CBS 60 Minutes feature. “Wouldn’t it be awesome if you did it? Think if you guys did it here and it had never been done before.”
Carroll talked about his “Better L.A.,” campaign, connecting educators, politicians and cops with gang members.
“Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out and sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching and the greatest of things can happen,” Carroll told CBS’ Byron Pitts in 2008.
That’s the idea behind Seattle’s Youth Violence Prevention Initiative.
“Coach Pete is extremely passionate about gang intervention and he brought that passion with him to Seattle and he’s been a major champion for us,” said Mariko Lockhart, director of the program. It was launched in response to a spike in youth violence in 2008. The program identifies kids at risk or in trouble and partners with community organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Club, to guide them down a more constructive path.
Kids such as Devonte, will be featured in a program update next week. Lockhart said members of community organizations who connected with Devonte became important people in his life and really influenced him.
“He’s now in junior college and he is going to pursue a bachelor’s degree in math. “That’s a complete 180-degree turn from the kind of things he was involved in before.”
Lockhart said the numbers show the effort is working. Arrests for youth violence are down 28 percent in the most dangerous Seattle neighborhoods. With help from Coach Carroll’s foundation, an outreach program has expanded into several south King County cities, including Renton, Kent, and Auburn.
Seattle did not apply to participate in the Youth Violence Summit this week, but was invited because of the success of its youth violence prevention campaign, said Lockhart.
The Youth Violence Prevention Initiative has a budget of $4.5 million and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has rewarded the work of the program, proposing an increase in money for 2014.