Community programs addressing gun violence in Tallahassee

Posted at 7:20 PM, Sep 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-20 19:20:42-04

TALLAHASSEE, FLa. — $1 million is how much the city commission has agreed to set-aside each year for 5 years to fight gun violence in Tallahassee.

This week, the City Commission will hear data on the causes of gun violence. They'll also hear some community programs that have been successful in addressing it and how additional funding can help them have a greater impact.

"That's all I want. I just want to see them grow up, be productive citizens and above all stay out of trouble," said Tallahassee Police Department Captain Danielle Davis.

In 2021, Tallahassee saw 437 cases of gun violence, an increase of 8.4%. Now the City of Tallahassee is looking at investing millions of dollars to stop the violence.

When it comes to gun violence, research shows some of the known causes in the United States include; income inequality and poverty, housing insecurity, underfunded schools and other public services, lack of opportunity and ease of access to firearms by high-risk individuals

The City of Tallahassee has identified dozens of programs that are aimed at addressing these issues.

The Big Bend Homeless Coalitions HOPE Community is an emergency housing shelter. Many HOPE Community residents are fleeing domestic violence, sexual assault, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions.

Holly Bernardo Knows it's critical for clients to have a safe, long-term place to stabilize after going through violent situations. "If we want to look at that cycle of gun violence and just poverty and crime in general, having access to safe housing is critical to really working on any of those other issues first," said Bernardo.

With additional funding, Bernardo said she could offer clients more in house services and build more affordable housing.

According to the Leon County Sheriff's Office "Anatomy of a Homicide" report from 2021, the 15-24 age group represented 42% of victims and 35% of offenders.

The Drug Education For Youth, or DEFY, Program DEFY program is aimed at stopping violence early. It's a prevention program run by the Tallahassee Police Department for kids ages 9-12.

Captain Danielle Davis said the week long summer program focuses on things like conflict resolution, gang resistance and decision making. "Anything that they learn in DEFY they can use if someone tries to encourage them to use a gun, steal a gun, do anything with a gun. They already know these are the consequences for my actions," said Davis.

Davis said they could extend the program to being 10 months instead of a week if they had additional funding.

The Boys & Girls Club of the Big Bend is a safe place for kids in disadvantage neighborhoods to go after school. It started in the Big Bend area in the 1990s in response to an increase in violent crime by local youth.

In Leon County alone, 538 kids have been served to-date. Kacy Dennis believes additional funding would allow them to grow. "I know that our programs work. More funding would let us serve more kids and get the good word out and get these good programs out to more kids in the Big Bend area," Dennis said.

All three of these programs and dozens others will be discussed during Wednesday's meeting.