Submitted by Andrew Kruse.
Recently, I wrote a petition about the need for violence prevention to be brought to the attention of the citizens and City Council in Lakewood. The concern that prompted me was brought on by the recent shootings at American Lake and Fort Steilacoom Park last month. While I have been working in Tillicum/Lakewood for the last four years through Youth For Christ, I have done a lot to attempt to help youth at an individual level to build conflict management skills. However, I feel like I must broadcast my concerns to the community at large to start conversations and head towards actions that will help make our community safer in partnership with others who are concerned by using our resources, relationships and platforms to prioritize peace as a value within individuals, families and the community at large. Over the last 10 years I have worked with youth and families in a variety of settings and it is very clear to me through my experience and reading research, that developing peace through violence prevention requires the investment of individuals, businesses, and organizations in the community to accomplish positive results.
Prevention is not just about curbing undesirable behavior, it is about building relationships that guide people to a future filled with hope and opportunity. This is a job bigger than what police or any other government agency can accomplish. We must work together for creating a more peaceful future. Youth, ages 10-24, are especially in need of their community to invest in the work of prevention because statistically, according to the 2020 Fast Facts on youth violence from the CDC, homicide is the 3rd leading cause of deaths among this age group.
Preventing death should not be our only motivator for investing in prevention, but also promoting quality of life. Due to isolation, untreated mental health issues and instability in the home that youth have experienced through the COVID-19 crisis there are many youth in our community dealing with anxiety, anger and uncertainty about how their basic needs are being met. All of these factors can contribute to youth reacting with unpredictable, hopeless, and sometimes violent actions towards family members, peers and their neighbors. In addition to statistics about homicide, that same CDC reported, nearly 1 in 5 high school students reported being bullied on school property in the last year, and about 1 in 7 were electronically bullied (texting, Instagram, Facebook, or other social media). While there are many areas that need to be addressed, I believe that if we work together we can begin making steps in the right direction together for the benefit of our youth and the community at large.
So what can you do today? Well here are two small steps towards prioritizing peace:
- Go and sign the petition that I am going to deliver to the Lakewood City Council by following this link: chng.it/c7xjqnW7
- Contact me, Andrew Kruse, if you are an individual, leader in an organization, business leader or work for the city to get a group together to discuss the important issues around peace through violence prevention (especially for our youth) and identifying other factors that have developed as barriers in the city of Lakewood. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org