Crime, Violence Dominate Mayors' Winter Meeting

Article excerpt

On the heels of President Clinton's State of the Union address, more than 150 mayors arrived in the nation's capital last week for the 62nd annual winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM.)

The issues of crime, youth violence, and gun control dominated the meeting agenda. Mayors shared ideas about crime control and crime prevention strategies that are working in their communities, learned more about President Clinton' s anticrime proposals from a variety of top-level administration officials, and heard speakers call for a national partnership involving governments, schools, the private sector, and the religious community to stem the rising tide of youth violence in the nation's cities and towns.

The urgency of the message on youth violence and gun control was reinforced by local events as high school and junior high school students and faculty successfully ducked for cover when more than twenty shots rang out both inside and outside two D.C. public schools the previous day.

Violence and Public Health

A major portion of the USCM conference focused on violence as a public health is sue. U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders and other public health officials provided sobering startistics on the true costs of violence to U.S. society. Noting that both she and the mayors had "a bully pulpit but limited resources," Elders called for a public-private partnership to attack violence similiar to the effort that has cut U.S. deaths from traffic accidents so dramatically.

Edlers ackowledged that local officials may be growing tired in their battles against crime, but said, "When you're dancing with a bear, you can't get tired and sit down. You must wait until the bear gets tired, then you can sit down."

In her remarks to delegates, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala also spoke about how violence is crippling our society. According to Shalala, new studies to be released soon from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that firearms deaths could, by the year 2000, be the leading cause of all injury deaths in the U.S., surpassing auto accidents.

Elders, Shalala, and other speakers also proposed additional long-range solutions to the crime problem, including banning assault weapons, implementing parenting education and youth mentoring programs, increasing funding for Head Start and for programs dealing with domestic violence and child abuse, creating more jobs, teaching violence prevention classes in schools, and encouraging more neighborhood, church, and private sector involvement in youth activities.

Crime Control Measures

In addition to these long-range programs, the mayors, led by Louisville, KY. mayor and USCM President Jerry Abramson, also said they need help now--in the short term--to combat the growing violence that is killing inner-city youth in record numbers and straining local police department resources. …