Restoring the Village Youth Initiative

The City of Fort Pierce encompasses 21 square miles, and has a current population of approximately 43,000.  Fort Pierce suffers from a high rate of violent crime - especially gang-related gun violence.  So much so, that in September 2014, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) ranked Fort Pierce 9th on the list of Florida's most dangerous cities. This ranking was higher than that given to the cities of Miami (ranked 10th), Tampa, Tallahassee, and Riviera Beach.  (Homesecurityshield.org)  The high rate of violence disproportionately impacts residents residing in a three square mile area of Fort Pierce called Lincoln Park (U.S. Census Tracts 3802 and 3803).  
 
In 2006, the Roundtable conducted a gang assessment to determine the community's view of the violence and gang problems.  Approximately 900 community members, police officers, youth, parents, bus drivers, teachers, neighbors, and volunteer organizations were surveyed. The Gang Assessment demonstrated that many of the youth in the county were involved in gangs and dangerous activity. Participants in the survey believed that efforts to combat gangs and violence needed to be community-wide and involve a coordinated approach between neighborhoods and agencies.
 
Lincoln Park's intolerance for gun violence culminated in the summer of 2013 after a series of deadly shootings. In response to the growing sentiment among residents that something had to be done, Florida State Representative Larry Lee, Jr. and other partners initiated the Restoring the Village Initiative, a grassroots, anti-violence movement. In 2013, 1,100 residents attended two anti-violence forums that brought together law enforcement, social service agencies, government leaders, community groups, and community leaders to discuss the city's gun and gang crime problems, and identify contributing factors and solutions. In response, leaders formed a committee to conduct a comprehensive community needs assessment and identify best-practice, evidence-based strategies to address the city's violent crime problems. These leaders identified a strategy - the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model - and in March 2014, representatives from Fort Pierce attended an in-depth training regarding the model hosted by the OJJDP. In September 2014, OJJDP sent experts to Fort Pierce to train over seventy community leaders on the Comprehensive Gang Model in an eight-hour training, and to explain the model to hundreds of community residents at a town hall forum.  Since then, the Safe Neighborhoods Network has worked collaboratively with the Lincoln Park community to craft a strategic plan for Fort Pierce that includes intervention, suppression, prevention and reentry services, as outlined in OJJDP’s Comprehensive Gang Model.  
 
The Comprehensive Gang Assessment & Restoring the Village Youth Initiative Presentation at Fort Pierce City Commission Meeting on January 3, 2016: