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Denver, Aurora enter youth empowerment compact to jointly address youth violence

Aurora City Council voted Monday to form a compact with the City and County of Denver to collaborate on developing strategies and identifying new and existing resources to taking a public health approach to combat youth violence in both cities.

“This challenge knows no borders. We need a regional, community-focused approach to break the cycle of youth violence across the metro area,” Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “We need to build pathways to justice, increase safety, and provide educational and employment opportunities for our youth through city-supported, community-led, and youth-informed programming. Denver and Aurora can do more by working together.”

“We must operate as one large community, not as separate cities with separate agendas and strategies,” Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said. “Aurora is proud to stand with Denver in declaring our shared dedication to youth empowerment and in asking everyone in our communities – community leaders, families, philanthropic organizations, government officials, and youth – to stand with us, too.”

The Aurora/Denver Youth Empowerment Compact will commit the cities to:

  • Leveraging existing resources across public, private, and non-profit sectors and philanthropic and business communities for collaboration on fundraising strategies including grant writing and partnerships.
  • Developing joint or multi-party agreements between the Cities and respective agencies with other public and private service providers to implement strategies and deliver services and programs.
  • Committing the Cities’ own facilities and assets such as parks and recreation centers for hosting events and providing programs and services.
  • Creating and implementing a mutually developed organizational structure and committees for the management of programs including a procurement committee to assist in obtaining services and facilities.
  • Hosting community-led events across both Aurora and Denver communities.
  • Coordinating with selected organizations specifically committed to serving youth in neighborhoods experiencing higher levels of youth violence.
  • Reporting to the Cities’ respective Mayors and City Councils and agencies including specific strategies for improved, continued and expanded programming.
  • Creating grant and other funding tools for programs and services.

The Compact complements the work being done by the Youth Violence Prevention Action Table (YVPAT) in Denver, which Mayor Hancock convened in 2019 to develop a public health approach to addressing youth violence.  Most recently, it shepherded the $3 million purchase of a building, using Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, to establish a dedicated youth empowerment center in Denver’s Valverde neighborhood.  Previously, Denver has provided $125,000 in microgrant funding to nearly 20 community partners that were suffering financially, has launched ‘safe zones’ in partnership with community-based organizations in neighborhoods hit hardest by youth violence, and has created a Youth Violence Prevention Council that gives youth a prominent voice on the YVPAT.

The Aurora Police Department has implemented several youth empowerment initiatives already, with more on the way, to give youth a more active voice in the community to speak out about the needs and challenges they see. A resource guide written by Aurora youth has provided police a way to engage with and start conversations with teens, and new Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson is developing a Chief’s Youth Advisory Board to provide police with new perspectives on how to better serve and community’s young people and work on violence prevention. In addition, the city’s Community Relations Division has been active in outreach and education events for Aurora youth.

“A partnership with Aurora, the state’s third largest city, will make the work more meaningful,” Denver City Attorney Kristin M. Bronson said.  Bronson is leading the YVPAT.  “The Denver metro is one, large community.  It became clear to us on the Action Table that all cities, community partners, families and youth need to champion a single, shared set of strategies to make youth violence prevention efforts effective.”