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by Michael Hopps

The 10-person delegation from Long Beach, Calif., who attended the National Summit on Preventing Youth Violence last month sat down together on the last day of the conference and began drafting an action plan. Many sessions at the Summit had fired the imaginations of team leader Neighborhood Relations Officer Tracy Colunga, Police Chief Robert Luna, School Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser, City Manager Representative Diana Tang, Health Director Kelly Colopy, City Prosecutor Doug Haubert, Pastor Gregory Sanders, and two youth leaders. But what the Long Beach leaders most wanted from their trip was to keep the conversations going between their own group and the groups they had met from the Youth Violence Prevention network's other cities.

10-person LB delegation
"We made a list of cities we were interested in sharing peer-to-peer learning with," Colunga recounted. "Then we voted."

The favored city was Louisville, Ky., for a host of reasons. These included, according to Colunga, "its use of public health models and its very robust implementation, and what they do for crime prevention through environmental design."

Within days of returning to Southern California, Colunga and her team put together a technical assistance request and sent it to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), asking for support to visit Louisville.

"DOJ is going to pay for two of our members," said Colunga. "Our Forum grant will pay for two others, and the City of Long Beach will pay for the others."

Louisville Happy to Host
Anthony Smith, director of safe and healthy neighborhoods for the Louisville Metro Government, and the other members of the Louisville violence prevention network look forward to the 3-day visit, tentatively set for Sept. 28 through Sept. 30.

Long Beach's slated seven travelers are the city manager representative, the health director, the city prosecutor, the director of development services, Superintendent Steinhauser, Police Chief Luna, and Colunga. Each will meet with his or her Louisville counterpart, "either one on one or as a big group exchange," said Colunga.

"We want to look at Louisville's funding strategies and how they implement violence prevention policy and programs," she continued. "Our police chief has asked to look at diversion programs, faith-based partnerships, and community partnerships."

Of particular interest to Colunga is learning more about Louisville's paid mentoring program, in which city employees mentor youth for 2 hours a week during their normal workday.

Surely, Louisville will benefit from what Long Beach has to offer, too.

Human Rights Model
Socially progressive Long Beach was 1 of only 38 cities nationwide to achieve a perfect score on last year's Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index. Still, the civic leaders of the nation's second-largest container port are hardly content to sit on their deck chairs and watch the tide roll out.

10-person LB delegation

In 2014 a coalition of law enforcement, neighborhood organizations, schools, families, youth leaders, and city managers released a violence prevention plan, Safe Long Beach: Families, Schools, and Communities. The document was 2 years in the making and addresses child abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse, hate crimes, bullying, gang violence, and violent crime.

The plan, which will be updated biennially through 2020, draws on assets of the city, such as its rich history, thriving downtown, and strong schools; makes use of evidence-based prevention strategies and practices; and will rely on interdisciplinary collaboration to reduce risk factors for families and communities. Its 1-year outcome measures include training 100 people, providing wraparound services, and developing a human trafficking response plan. Its 5-year measures include expanding five centers and educating 500 parents and caregivers (see their logic model for inputs, outputs, and other outcome measures).

Memphis Next?
On the final day of the National Summit, when the Long Beach delegation voted on a city with which to have a peer-to-peer exchange, Memphis, Tenn., also ranked high on the list.

"Memphis has a crisis intervention team that is one of the gold standard models for mental health diversion," said Colunga.

Another member of the delegation pointed out Memphis's close proximity to Louisville. A visit to the Bluff City as an extension of the Louisville trip would bring another new Forum city into the peer-sharing fold.

At a National Summit workshop, U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton (Western District of Tennessee) told the audience that Memphis law enforcement reaches gang-involved youth through local churches, because, according to Stanton, "Individuals typically trust their religious leaders."

On learning this, Colunga offered, "Police Chief Luna will be excited to hear that."