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National forum explores ways to prevent crime, violence.

Municipal elected officials joined national and state agencies and organizations in Washington, D.C. to learn about the best and most current programs on preventing crime and violence in cities and towns, at a forum held last week.

The National Forum on Preventing Crime and Violence covered a broad spectrum of issues and possible solutions to prevent violent crime and other acts including: community-based planning for safe schools, and how it can be applied communities across the country, the Boys' and Girls' Clubs working with youth in public housing, conflict management strategies, media violence prevention, and how the principles of crime prevention through environmental design can be incorporated into the design of public places as a matter of routine policy, and others.

During the opening plenary session, forum participants heard from a number of nationally recognized speakers including Attorney General Janet Reno, Joseph Biden (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.).

NLC is an active member of the National Crime Prevention Coalition, sponsor of the four day forum. The coalition consists of 122 organizations seeking to spur and support citizen action against crime and violence.

Representing NLC, Maryann Mahaffey, Detroit city council president, participated in the discussion on crime issues unique to women. Mahaffey shared her experience as founder of a rape crisis center in Detroit, the first in the country connected to city government. Her remarks also focused on the need to make changes in court and legal services. Operating hours of 9 to 5 are not realistic.

Tom Werth, mayor of Rochester, Mich. and member of NLC's Human Development Steering Committee also attended the conference as did Mayor Bill Morrisette of Springfield, Ore.

Reno gave a moving presentation focusing on the need to put children first, stating that a child should be given every opportunity to develop "self respect and a feeling of purpose." According to Reno, prenatal care is the key to giving human beings a chance and that years 0 to 3 are the most important. Reno also said that domestic violence is a major health problem.

Biden began his remarks by saying that "The nation has an attitudinal problem." According to Biden, the laws of the U.S. shoul reflect our collective attitudes toward what we say we value. However, our laws fall short, according to the Senator from Delaware. He noted that we claim to value our children, yet how can that be if we fail to enforce child support laws? Moreover, the courts do not make victims part of the system, therefore, citizens deal with it by avoiding becoming a victim or accepting it as "the way it is."

Simon's remarks focused on his work to reduce violence in the media. According to Simon, the three major television networks worked together to develop a list of standards that are expected to reduce the amount of violence on TV this fall.

Other key note speakers were George Washington University Professor, Dr. Amitai Etzioni, who addressed the issue of restoring the moral basis of society including a discussion with respect to laws that only work with the underpinning of social values.

Edward James Olmos, actor, director and anti-gang activist from Los Angeles discussed the need to educate children to make positive choices. Dr. Mark Rosenberg, who heads public health policy development for the Center for Injury Prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spoke of the work at CDC with respect to reducing death and disability from both accidental and intentional injuries, especially those resulting from firearms.

For additional information regarding the Forum, call Janet Quist, who chaired the forum design committee, at NLC at (202) 626-3020.
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Author:Quist, Janet
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:May 10, 1993
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