A citizen-led taskforce assembled by Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman to address crime and public safety is recommending more funding for youth programs along with better coordination between existing initiatives.
The Task Force on Safety and Crime Reduction released the preliminary report to the public Wednesday. The report, which was sent to Bowman on May 6, is recommending city officials allocate $2.7 million to go towards mentorship, teen programing, and juvenile justice.
“The task force strongly believes that a consistent and dedicated funding stream is required,” according to an excerpt from the 11 page report. “It is also important to recognize that programs and initiatives designed to reduce crime and violence must have continuity.”
The report added that city leaders have a history of defunding programs after seeing results. It urges lawmakers to not prematurely end successful crime reduction efforts and to instead confront underlying factors.
“We must go beyond treating symptoms, and be bold enough to deal with root causes of crime and violence in the city,” the task force’s authors wrote.
The City Council passed legislation in March to turn the task force, which was originally set to make its final recommendation May 1 of this year, into a commission that will operate until July of 2022. That designation takes effect July 1st.
Bowman called for the task force in November and it has been meeting since January. The 47 member group, which is chaired by Rev. Mark Griffin, originally included four subcommittees.
The task force now has the following nine subgroups:
- Workforce Training
- Community Engagement
- Business Partnership
- Education & Youth
- Family Engagement
- Mental Health & Substance Abuse
- Re-entry & Juvenile Justice
The taskforce is recommending the city set aside $500,000 to go towards recruiting and training 1,000 mentors to serve 10,000 mentees. Another area the group wants to address is programming for adolescents.
Right now, through the Kids Hope Alliance, the city allocates $1.6 million for pre-teen and teen programming. But that serves just 3% of high school students, according to the report. The task force is recommending at least $1 million in additional funds for the programming.
The task force also wants the city to invest $100,000 to improve mental illness services and another $100,000 for what it calls a “Trauma Response Plan,” an initiative designed to support children and families traumatized by violent crime.
The task force’s final funding recommendation is to better assist young people in the juvenile system. According to the report, Jacksonville funds $1.2 million in juvenile justice and intervention programs, which support about 19% of that population. The task force recommends allocating an additional $1 million.
“It is the task force’s hope that our city leaders adequately fund initiatives designed to reduce crime and violence in both the near and long term future,” the report states.
Along with the funding recommendation, the taskforce also pointed out areas it hopes to focus on moving forward. These include getting illegal guns off the streets, expanding economic opportunities, and providing jobs skills training.
It is unclear when the taskforce will release the full report.
City Council President Aaron Bowman, Task Force Chair Mark Griffin, and Vice Chair City Councilman Sam Newby were not immediately available for comment.