Violence is Preventable

The Centers for Disease Control now defines violence as a public health concern. Violence is preventable, not inevitable. It is a predictable behavior in the unsafe environments where people live. Rooted in a complex set of underlying issues, violence is a learned behavior that can be unlearned or not learned in the first place. Forces of police vigilance and tougher sentencing will not control crime and sustain public safety, for brutal crime is a symptom of contagious sickness of communities, instead of inherent criminal or deliberate viciousness (Kenneth B. Clark, 1965).

A more integrative approach to community service intervention, policymaking and resource allocation would ensure that the limited pool of available public resources are used most effectively to address the issues associated with violence and destitute communities.

Paradigm Shift in Thinking About Violence is Needed

A more accurate question for reducing violence in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County is how do we effectively prevent violence before it occurs? It is not "how do we effectively sweep the streets and lock-up people" in order to reduce crime as suggested by the public suppression paradigm. Although law enforcement can produce a temporary reduction in rate of violence, in time, such an intervention simply invites resurgence of violence at the expense of continual imprisonment of our youth and young adults (cycle of incarceration), and neighborhood neglect and decay. In order to effectively prevent violence before it occurs, The City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County needs an intervention system that incorporates a scientifically based comprehensive public health strategy, which views crime as a preventable social disease, inclusive of various risk and protective factors that impact the likelihood that a person will engage in criminal conduct. Violence prevention will require an interdisciplinary effort to address those risk factors associated with violence, and build on assets and capabilities among youth, families, and communities.

Over the last two decades in the United States, public health practitioners, policy makers, and researchers have charted new territory by increasing the use of public health strategies to understand and prevent youth violence, which has traditionally been considered a criminal justice problem. The utilization of public health approaches has generated several contributions to the understanding and prevention of violence.

Public health addresses the health problems of populations (neighborhoods, cities, states) using epidemiology to identify the major problems; understand the factors; follow rates of morbidity and mortality; design, implement and evaluate programmatic and policy oriented prevention strategies.

In essence, the Public Health Model to violence reductions accomplishes the following:

  1. Defines the Problem
  2. Identifies Risks and Protective Factors
  3. Develops and Tests Prevention Strategies
  4. Continually optimize intervention methods

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