The City and County of Denver released its Youth Violence Prevention Comprehensive Plan, which outlines long-term strategies that take a public health approach to preventing youth violence across the city. The plan was developed by Denver's Youth Violence Prevention Action Table (YVPAT) and the Office of Children's Affairs will lead and implement its strategies beginning March 1.
The YVPAT was formed by Mayor Michael B. Hancock in November 2019. Its goals were to identify and raise awareness of programs that could help address youth violence, pinpoint any gaps where the city could provide more support and develop the Youth Violence Prevention Comprehensive Plan. The YVPAT is composed of youth, government partners from local, state and federal levels, the courts, public school system, public housing authorities, health care, youth-serving organizations and its national partner, Cities United. The YVPAT also developed the Youth Advisory Council of Denver, a group of diverse youth between the ages of 15 to 21, and engaged them as subject matter experts to help identify strategies and develop the plan.
“Engaging youth in shaping our plan was critical to defining our strategies,” Mayor Hancock said. “Our young people were at the table with us as partners - giving us fresh perspectives and relevant information about their experiences, their needs and their interests - informing what strategies would be effective in preventing youth violence in our city."
Denver Public Health reported that an average of 700 people who are directly affected by gun violence each year are under the age of 25. This has become a public health crisis, and Denver is committed to ending this type of violence by implementing strategies that create pathways to justice, increase safety and expand educational and employment opportunities for youth through city-supported, community-led and youth-informed programming.
“The human suffering and loss associated with youth violence is not one neighborhood’s problem to solve. We all have a role to play in ensuring that young people grow up safe, healthy and happy with opportunities to thrive,” said Kristin Bronson, Denver city attorney who has chaired the Action Table since its inception. “This plan represents a seismic shift in how the city approaches youth violence prevention and offers a message of hope to youth and their families.”
The Youth Violence Prevention Comprehensive Plan includes almost two dozen long-term strategies, including the development of new youth centers, expansion of safe zone events, access to mental and behavioral supports for youth and families, enhanced programming through community-based organizations, adoption of innovative data-sharing models and through a regional collaborative approach, continued community outreach on youth violence prevention efforts.
Two key strategies will ensure the work remains a top priority for the city have already been put into place: designating a city agency and recruiting a coordinator fully dedicated to implementing the plan and advancing the work. The Office of Children's Affairs will be the lead city agency and Jonathan McMillan, a mentor and community activist, has been hired as the youth violence prevention coordinator.
"The Youth Violence Prevention Plan is an innovative initiative that seeks to maximize the assets of young people and their communities and enhance the protective factors that keep them safe and healthy," said Jonathan McMillan, youth violence prevention coordinator. "My job, in part, will be to coordinate the work of all of the various stakeholders and ensure the combined strategies work as a seamless collaboration.”
View Denver's Youth Violence Prevention Comprehensive Plan and learn more about the city's efforts to prevent youth violence by visiting denvergov.org/youthviolenceprevention.