Recidivism rates drop when at-risk kids are connected to resources that meet their individual needs.

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WHY has Seattle experienced fewer youth violent deaths and youth incarcerations over the past six years than other similarly sized cities? What’s changed?

In 2008, the City of Seattle engaged several local private, nonprofit agencies, including the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs, with one goal in mind: to develop a multidisciplinary approach to prevent youth violence and reduce youth incarceration. The targeted age group was 12 to 18 years old. Street outreach is one of several proven components of this approach that is predicated on engaging with young people in their neighborhoods, parks, schools and on the streets.

At-risk youths are connected to resources, such as case management, that align with their individual needs, reduce their risk of violence and lower the recidivism rate for those who have already been in the justice system. Today, there are 26 participating agencies in the initiative serving more than 1,500 at-risk youths, making it one of the largest collaborative-services partnerships in the Pacific Northwest.

When Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was in Los Angeles, he started A Better LA to address the violence in the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Southern California. A Better Seattle was created for the same reasons. Carroll’s experience, leadership and philanthropy improved and expanded the Seattle program. The partnership has expanded throughout South King County and further demonstrates great things can happen for kids when local government leaders join forces with key community partners. In 2013, Seattle’s success was recognized by the White House as a “champion of change.”

During Mayor Ed Murray’s tenure, Seattle’s efforts have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice for innovation, and the city was featured at the National Forum on Preventing Youth Violence’s annual meeting. Recently, the mayor’s senior team presented the city’s innovative approach at the U.S. Justice Department’s 2015 National Forum Summit in Washington, D.C. In February, Seattle was invited to participate in a Congressional briefing for youth development and crime prevention. The mayor continues to keep at-risk youths a high priority by joining forces with the Department of Justice, the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper program. He is also expanding the city’s youth employment and recreation programs in at-risk neighborhoods.

Many lives have been changed as a result of this work, including that of a promising high-school athlete from Seattle who was caught with a handgun at school. Suspended from school and living on the streets, W.R. became more deeply involved with a gang and continued making poor choices.

The young man was then referred to a street-outreach program by his principal, who believed in his potential. Initially he refused to get engaged with the program. But after being arrested and spending time in juvenile detention, he decided to join the program for help. A street-outreach worker helped him enroll in summer school and move him home with his father. With the guidance and support, he didn’t miss a day of summer school and earned enough credits to return to high school. Once back in school, W.R. became a model student-athlete, winning academic awards and playing all-state football. He also was recruited by major colleges, such as USC.

Young people in our community have benefited from Murray, Carroll, private contributors, and staff and volunteers of local nonprofits who are courageously leading this effective, social innovation.”

“My outreach worker just walked with me until I was ready to make changes in my life. I wouldn’t be here today without the support of my outreach worker and the program,” W.R. explained.

Young people in our community have benefited from Murray, Carroll, private contributors, and staff and volunteers of local nonprofits who are courageously leading this effective, social innovation. In June, Murray was asked by the Department of Justice to increase Seattle’s leadership role at the national level and apply for funding available to only 15 cities. This type of national engagement fosters continuous program improvement, expands the performance data, and exposes the Seattle program to additional best practices for youth-violence prevention.

Most important, it continues to value and save young people’s lives.