Black ministers in Boston, responding to a surge in youth violence, hope to recruit, train, and deploy 1,000 volunteers to work with at-risk young people from the city’s toughest and poorest neighborhoods, reports the Boston Globe. The initiative, the largest since the youth crime wave of the early 1990s, aims to expand the ministers’ street-level involvement in fighting violence. It also seeks to revive the community-police partnership that was a key factor in the drastic reduction in the city’s homicide rate from 1996 until last year.
City and police officials applaud the plan. Police will help train volunteers and will develop deployment strategies for the initiative, which is being launched by the Boston TenPoint Coalition, a group of churches and faith-based organizations founded in 1992 to combat gang violence. ”There is a realization that we’ve been asleep at the wheel,” said the Rev. Jeffrey L. Brown, pastor of Union Baptist Church in Cambridge. ”What we did before wouldn’t work now,” said Brown, who was the youngest member of the TenPoint leadership in the ’90s. ”Conditions are different on the street.” Police and social workers say several factors are contributing to the problem: an increased tendency of young people to engage in deadly violence for seemingly trivial reasons; an increase in the youth population overall; major cuts in funding for youth work; and increasing numbers of criminal offenders who are returning to the community after serving their sentences.