Keeping our Communities Safe
Washington, March 9, 2018
We’ve done a lot to stress the importance of building and investing in positive community models. The work that organizations do to contribute to improving the quality of life in the central Arkansas region is important and doesn’t go unnoticed. One of the main objectives in building a positive community is improving and investing in safety. Recently in central Arkansas, violent crime has risen to troubling levels.
It’s up to community leadership, along with government, law enforcement, and community partners to begin working towards a safer environment for our children and families. That’s why I’m very pleased with the work of KARK-Fox16’s Victory Over Violence (VOV) campaign, whose mission to effectively reach kids involved in risky behaviors like alcohol, drugs, gangs, violence, and school suspension exemplifies what community involvement should look like.
VOV’s mission is to report on crime in a responsible manner that focuses on the impact, response, and solutions. It aims to unite community groups and leaders as well as serve as a resource for reducing violent crime and changing lives through improvements in education, jobs, mentoring, and hunger. Crime rates have been falling since the early 1990s, but the violent crime rate has risen in the past three years with a ten percent increase in the murder rate. In Arkansas, the violent crime rate increased by 8.6 percent between 2014 and 2015.
In the past, I’ve talked about how to increase positive outcomes for at-risk youth. At-risk youth face difficult realities, and life is infinitely more challenging without the support of caring adults. With mentors, at-risk youth are less likely than their peers to skip school or use drugs and more likely to go to college, play sports, and volunteer in their communities. When our community commits itself to engaging youth through mentorship by focusing on social, moral, and cultural development, we become closer to preventing the problems we face.
I was pleased to learn of efforts late last year to bring back football for sixth graders in the Little Rock School District after nearly a decade of closure from funding cuts. Dr. Fitz Hill, former president of Arkansas Baptist College and former head coach of San Jose State, has been a champion of the new program, “6th & Goal – Model Up,” which emphasizes character building, goal-setting, and opportunity development through relationships and community. Dr. Hill, along with other business and community leaders, saw a need for engagement and worked tirelessly to procure the financial support for the program. Coaches for the newly implemented program will also serve as mentors, showing the boys examples of positive role models both on and off the field.
I’ve been privileged to work alongside the Victory over Violence campaign as we try to track violent crime in a responsible manner by creating community-based solutions that focus on rooting out the cancerous elements in our neighborhoods. When we work together to create positive outcomes for our youth, the possibilities for change are boundless.