Aurora lawmakers review city plan to stem youth violence

Students are seen running from the suspects’ vehicle and shots are fired from the moving van, November 19, 2021 in the parking lot of Hinkley High School.

DAWN | After relaunching an anti-gang program earlier this year, Aurora City Council continued to express skepticism about staff proposals to address youth violence on Monday, parting ways with the relevance of a new strategic plan.

Three members raised formal objections and two others expressed concerns about the plan, which aims to address youth and gang violence, and specifically shootings, by educating young people aged 10-24 and families. .

Mayor Mike Coffman and Councilman Angela Lawson said they believe the strategic plan is out of step with council’s resolution revamping the youth violence prevention program modeled after the Aurora Gang Reduction Impact program, devoting 80 % of program funding for violence intervention and 20% for prevention.

Lawson also said she felt the plan didn’t go far enough in offering short-term ways to address the violence.

“Young people are being shot every day,” she said. “I’m just trying to figure out… how we’re going to handle these critical incidents that we face pretty much every day in Aurora.”

In 2021, police say 33 people were shot in the city, including two children. Of the 157 non-fatal shootings, 39 of the victims were children and a total of 16 non-fatal shootings were reportedly gang-related.

Aurora Police Department Metro Division Chief Mark Hildebrand previously estimated that between 20% and 50% of violent crime is gang-related, depending on how police define gangs.

Aurora’s youth violence prevention program manager, Christina Amparan, on Monday presented the results of community interviews, which indicated the type of violence considered to have the most impact on the city – violence. gangs topped the list, followed by domestic violence, gun violence and other categories. .

Amparan also cited drug use, bullying, mental health issues, family issues and “racial tensions” as reasons young people are drawn into violence.

“A lot of these behaviors are very complex and require a specialist response, which is even more of a reason why we want to make sure we take this multidisciplinary response,” Amparan said.

She said a multi-disciplinary team could start working as early as next month, referring at-risk and high-risk youth to one of two outreach specialists who will be part of the full program team or to an agency. outside.

Other points of the strategic plan presented by Amparan include supporting the police and the courts by acting as a “resource center” and continuing to assess the impacts of violence, expanding other partnerships to break what Amparan called the city’s “siloed” response to the violence, and undertaking prevention work, such as serving young runaways with the help of police and offering mental health services and safe spaces in the wake of the armed violence with the help of the churches.

Council member Dustin Zvonek said he also opposed the strategic plan coming out of Monday’s study session.

While board members Francoise Bergan and Danielle Jurinsky did not formally raise objections, Bergan said she thought the program’s focus was still too broad and Jurinsky said she wanted to see which organizations would be selected to be offered funding to groups willing to lead some of the violence mitigation efforts.

“I don’t think there’s a cost we should spare to keep our kids alive and stop these shootings,” Jurinsky says.

Amparan told Jurinsky that finalists for the $500,000 funding opportunity notice would be selected later this week.

Since a majority of board members did not object to the item moving forward, the strategic plan was to be presented at a regular meeting, where the board could vote to approve it.

Those who did not object to the article still posed logistical questions to city employees — Juan Marcano asked if the city could collect anonymized data on the challenges facing youth and families in Aurora. .

“I think it will also help guide our policies, because I think we also have an important role to play in tackling youth violence,” he told Amparan. “I think it’s the community, it’s the work that you do through your program, the parents, but also us in our legislative capacity.”

Amparan said staff members would present updates at policy committee meetings, which could include trends observed by members of the program’s response task force.

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