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New Effort Aims to De-Escalate Violence

Some experts say poverty is a major contributor to crime. (AdobeStock)
Some experts say poverty is a major contributor to crime. (AdobeStock)
September 15, 2020

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- A new boots-on-the-ground initiative is under way to reduce violence and create new opportunities in St. Louis communities plagued by crime.

As part of the "Serving Our Streets" program, urban engagement specialists will be in three neighborhoods building relationships with young men and women on the streets and helping to de-escalate conflict.

Wendell Kimbrough, CEO at Area Resources for Community and Human Services, or ARCHS, said many of these outreach workers have risen above their own troubled past, and understand the systemic challenges these communities face.

"These young people who historically have not seen a way out of poverty or out of crime, we're going to be able to provide them with opportunities to learn a trade, to find jobs, to find access to resources from a social services standpoint, an educational standpoint and a health standpoint," Kimbrough said.

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis will provide the specialists for the program who have specialized training in conflict resolution and violence reduction. And ARCHS, which is part of the Missouri Family and Community Trust, will be providing evaluation and objective assessment of the program to justify the need for future funding and possible expansion.

Kimbrough said Gov. Mike Parson has been instrumental in securing $1 million in federal funding to get the program going.

"With the high numbers, sadly, of murders that occurred last year and high numbers this year, I think that with his law-enforcement background, from a positive standpoint, he realized that there needed to be some additional resources in these communities," Kimbrough said.

He added that Serving Our Streets is the perfect bookend to the new Neighborhood Healing Network, which focuses on reducing trauma experienced by witnesses and victims of crime.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MO