The COMBAT Anti Violence Special Initiative (AVSI) is an extension of COMBAT’s effort to reduce drug abuse and crime in our communities. 2014 began a new chapter for COMBAT. The funding of violence prevention programs is one of the reasons that Jackson County COMBAT has become a model program across the country.
COMBAT funds 10 new and innovative community anti-violence programs throughout Jackson County with an annual budget of $562,500 for 2014. The Anti-Violence Special Initiative (AVSI) was a bid for proposals of programming to focus on the prevention and reduction of violent crime. Programs take place in schools, community organizations, health clinics, mental health centers, and neighborhood associations to name a few. These 16 programs focus on seven specific areas:
Community Violence Prevention
Producing environments that seek to address violence prevention by increasing neighborhood strengths and producing positive norms take leadership, organization, and the ability to build allies. These are the linchpins around which violence free communities grow.
Jackson County, along with the rest of the nation, is experiencing an influx of ex-offenders re-entering our community after years of incarceration. In 2011, 2,777 ex-offenders returned to Jackson County from federal or state prisons, and 5,194 were under the jurisdiction of Probation or Community Corrections. It is a common fear that those who are returning to society from incarceration will become responsible for violent behaviors in the communities to which they return. Several studies show that interventions meant to teach new coping behaviors to ex-offenders can be very successful in reducing these violent reactions.
Parenting & Family Interventions
Intervening in families where young people have already been in trouble for exhibiting disruptive behaviors may involve a mixture of parenting skills building and treatment approaches. Newer, effective approaches that are evidence-based can take programming to families that would not normally seek help.
Jackson County no longer has the same gang problems as experienced in the 1980's-90's,but there continues to be groups with small territories who are responsible for an inordinate amount of vi9lent crime. According to a COMBAT funded Gang Assessment, the Kansas City area "has experienced a growing size and scope of gangs and related gang crime in targeted urban core neighborhoods." Over 400 different gangs have been recognized by the Kansas City Police Department Gang Squad, which reports that the vast majority of gangs in the city are "community-based," with members who grow up on the same block, same area, or from the same school. It is speculated that gang violence is responsible for some of the large number of Kansas City homicide victims each year between the ages of 17-24.
In 2011, 1,368 persons were arrested for violent crimes in Jackson County. Those who perpetrate violence upon others are often targeted for punishment without consideration of ways to remediate their behaviors in the long term. These individuals often present themselves in Substance Abuse Treatment environments. Programs that address remediation of violent behavior (which may be coupled with substance abuse treatment) constitute a promising area for innovation.
According to Missourifamilies.org, 20-30% of teens have experienced physical or sexual violence in a dating relationship, and 15% report that it was severe (e.g., being hit, kicked, thrown down or attacked with a weapon). Relationship Violence at an early age serves as a gateway for young people to become prone to involvement in later, escalated such violence.
Restorative Justice, Conflict & Resolution
Violence has increasingly become the first reaction to conflict. Restorative Justice has garnered attention as a response that involves the offender and those victimized in seeking solutions. It is particularly effective in handling both low-level and serious crime and violence, and in reducing repeat victimization. Conflict resolution and mediation skills-building must be culturally appropriate and focus on those at risk of using violence as a response to provocative situations, or those who have shown a tendency to respond violently.
The programming in these areas serve a broad range of client ages from children and youth up to adults.
While COMBAT officials are eager to move their anti-violence strategies forward, they are also adamant that no funding be diverted from its traditional role of assisting law enforcement and community agencies in regards to drug abuse prevention and treatment. CLICK HERE for complete list of funded anti-violence programs.