Governor Deval L. Patrick
Youth Violence Prevention Announcement
BCYF Mildred Avenue Community Center, Boston
Monday, May 9, 2011

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Thank you everyone, thank you everyone for coming out. Thank you Mr. Mayor for your leadership. I thank everyone here today, those who stand behind me on this podium, those who have come together. Each of you are leaders in important ways and, to the Mayor's point, what we must do is bring our leadership into alignment so that we're all driving in the same direction and delivering results at a higher degree of effectiveness.

Why? In 2007, a 14-year old named Steven Odom was shot and killed coming home from playing with friends. A few days later, an 18 year old, believed to be the person who had shot and killed Steven, was himself shot and killed in Mattapan. And in that case by a 19 year old. These stories are repeated too often around the Commonwealth. It's not unique to any one community it's not unique to any one city. It's happening around the Commonwealth and it's happening too often. It's not OK. We are losing too many children to gun and gang related violence. The life of any young person is not expendable. We have to act and we have to act together.

I have to acknowledge that there is a lot of good happening in our communities right now. A lot of good. Local law enforcement is doing what they can. Individual not-for-profits and faith leaders are doing what they can. Youth workers and a whole lot of former gang bangers are doing what they can. But we need to do more and we need to do it together.

This is not a purely local issue because the cycle of violence and poverty in any one community is a threat to every community.

This is not a purely governmental issue. Community centers like this one, initiatives like the Mothers for Justice and Equality, private employers and neighbors all have a critical role. Many, many are engaged.

This is also not just a criminal justice problem. It is a public health problem.

So starting today, under the leadership of my designee Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, Marilyn Anderson Chase -- stand up Marilyn so everybody can see you -- we will work with a different level of focus and concentration with local official and civic leadership in those communities where urban violence is at its highest to develop a tailored strategy for each community to restore the peace. The most at-risk young people in the most violent communities in the Commonwealth must have the full continuum of services, from trauma counseling to job training. So, for each targeted community, with Marilyn's leadership, working with our local partners, we will assess what services currently exist, which are working and which are not, and what gaps need to be filled.

Working with the Legislature and the private sector, we will fund what works and defund what does not, and we will together develop measures for success and progress. To support this at the outset we will seek an additional $10M from the state legislature.

We also need to do something about the proliferation of illegal guns on the street. They're too easy to get. So we will file legislation that gives law enforcement the tools they need to stop the most dangerous, violent criminals and take high-impact, illegal weapon-holders out of our communities. It will stipulate three new gun-related crimes - assault and battery with a firearm, assault with a firearm, and a "felony in possession law" parallel to federal law - with serious criminal consequences.

I will also be filing legislation that closely reflects the Attorney General's Enterprise Crime bill to clamp down on traditional and non-traditional criminal enterprises. Working with law enforcement, we will modernize our efforts to pursue, disrupt and prosecute organized criminal groups by expanding the definition of organized crime to include street gangs and drug trafficking networks. As criminals become more advanced and organized, law enforcement must adapt as well. And this legislation will help achieve that goal.

We also need to give young people positive alternatives to membership in a gang. With the Legislature's support, our Administration will again make available to local communities money for summer and after school jobs in the budget that is working its way through the Legislature right now.

I today renew my call to private sector employers, to private industry, to make paid and unpaid internships available to young people from urban communities so that they may experience and discipline of work and the opportunity to imagine a better way for themselves and for their families their community. I said at the outset that no government, no single government official, no law enforcement official, no individual faith leader or community of faith leaders or not-for-profit can do this alone, but together we can.

I want to thank Assistant Secretary Marilyn Chase, the members of the cabinet, Secretary Heffernan, Secretary Bigby, Secretary Reville, the many members of our team who are here, the leaders in local government, the many mayors who are here, law enforcement, community groups. We have been together at a whole lot of meetings and we've been together at a whole lot of funerals. We need better than that. We are better than that. Wow let's get busy. Thank you all for being here.