After a Year of Work, Hillsborough County, Florida Releases Plan to Prevent Violence
Almost two years ago, the horrendous killings of 20 first-graders and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, shocked the nation. I, like everyone else, felt sickened, angry and frustrated at the tragic loss of innocent life. When I reviewed statistical data on violence, I realized that the focus on mass shootings was, in many ways, misplaced.
So begins an Op-ed from Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner that ran on Sunday in the Tampa Tribune. Beckner went on to say that while mass shootings are unacceptable, the everyday assaults, shootings and acts of abuse in Hillsborough and communities across the country are “the daily drip of violence that fractures our community and corrodes our lives.”
In the aftermath of the Newtown shootings, Beckner and his fellow commissioners voted to set up a Violence Prevention Collaborative and to engage Prevention Institute to assist in its work. The Collaborative’s charge was to study patterns of violence in Hillsborough, look at the community conditions and risk factors that promote or discourage such violence and create a strategic plan to prevent and reduce it in the future.
For the past year, Prevention Institute staff worked with members of the Collaborative, sharing the experience we’ve gained helping cities from Salinas, California to New Orleans create their own strategic plans to prevent violence and shift the landscape so violence is seen as preventable. The Hillsborough collaborative brought together people from all sectors of the county, including the mayors and police departments of Tampa and other cities, the county sheriff, school board, courts, public defender's office and community- and faith-based organizations. The Collaborative members dug deep into the data, conducted a survey of county youth and developed a comprehensive set of recommendations. Prevention Institute staff members helped them at every stage, aiding the diverse members of the Collaborative interact and learn from each other, helping identify the data to be gathered and outlining the key elements of a prevention plan.
Yesterday, at a press conference, Commissioner Beckner and other members released Safe and Sound Hillsborough, the Collaborative’s strategic plan. The event drew extensive newspaper, radio and TV news coverage.
Now, said Robert Blount, president of Abe Brown Ministries and co-chair of the Collaborative’s faith-based organizations committee, the VPC must “move from the strategic planning phase to the tactical phase. We have our work cut out for us for the next five years to implement this plan.” We wish them the best of luck and we are confident that by embracing a coordinated, comprehensive approach to prevention, they, like so many other communities, can improve the safety and quality of life for residents.