After months of meetings, the CDC Community Advisory Council has released its final report with recommendations for preventing further gun violence in Wilmington.
The 51-page report calls for a more proactive approach to reducing violence, based the CDC’s November 2015 study of city gun violence and its underlying causes.
It notes at least two-thirds of funds allocated in the early 1990s through Delaware’s Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families were limited to kids in institutional settings.
While some of that funding has shifted since, local leaders like New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer say it’s still a problem and that taxpayer dollars should be spent on prevention programs rather than reacting to violence when it’s already too late.
"Think of all the resources: the policing resources, the legal resources, the corrective resources," Meyer said. “It’s not acceptable in the city of Wilmington in 2017, it’s not acceptable in New Castle County in 2017, in the state of Delaware - for that matter in this country - that there are kids who don’t feel safe going outside their houses."
Delaware Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long said that approximately 95% of the cases she reviewed Thursday during her first day participating on the state's Board of Pardons started as youth delinquency cases among struggling teens, further illustrating the need for early-intervention services.
The report recommends reexamining current investment of state and local funding for youth programs – and pursuing more public-private partnerships.
"We have to look at the recommendations in this report and do a better job making sure all of our young people grow up with the support they need to be successful - the education they need - to compete in a very, very competitive and challenging world," Governor John Carney said.
Carney said the state is "all in" when it comes to state-level support, with the report citing creation of a state-level Children’s Cabinet Council under the governor’s leadership.
However, Carney added the effort requires an all-hands-on-deck approach.
“We can’t be looking for ways to pick out and say 'oh, I don’t agree with this, or I don’t agree with that.' Whatever the case may be," Carney said. "We’re going to have our differences. Let’s focus on the things we can agree on to move our city and our state forward. This is going to be hard work. Believe it or not, what ya’ll did was the easy part.”
It’s unclear what specific steps will be taken next, or a timetable. But the report did identify youth programs that already exist in hot spot areas, and those focused on kids with moderate and high-levels of need.
One specific report recommendation calls for a one-stop Youth Wellness Center to be piloted in a community center for kids who've already gone down the wrong path, and suggests it be modeled after the Hope Commission.
Council President Hanifa Shabazz couldn’t provide further details on the center, and says a location has yet to be determined.
But Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki, who recently served as a Chairman for the Hope Commission, said he thinks the organization's model - currently serving adults - could be even more effective for young adults and adolescents.
"I'm hoping that this is more preventative and that we catch kids early and we give them the services they need," Purzycki said. "None of this supplants the importance of strengthening families so that families can provide what is ultimately the most important support, but a lot of families are broken and can't do it, so we have to recognize that and be real. I think this whole exercise is a great reality check. This is a tough problem and we have to deal with it intelligently."