In 2000, there appeared to be a curious spike in youth violence – an incongruity within the reams of crime data amassed by the FBI. Unfortunately, it was not a spike; it was a new reality. Gun violence among children was occurring in schools and neighborhoods and festering into a sweeping national trend. Kids reported that they hated cops and distrusted the law. Police officers, in turn, were not talking to young people, claiming they did not know how. In most cities in America, the stalemate continued, as shootings and homicides rose among younger and younger teens.
In 2003, North American Family Institute stepped into the turbulence with the ambition of keeping the most vulnerable kids away from gangs, guns, violence, and death through the establishment of its unique Youth & Police Initiative (YPI). The focus was to address the dual challenge in these tough neighborhoods of teaching youth the skills to resolve daily conflicts with authority while also teaching police officers to step out of their cars and have genuine conversations.
Operating under Youth Link, NAFI/NFI’s prevention division, the Youth & Police Initiative Program brings at-risk youth together with the local beat officers to share personal stories, meals, and let their guards down long enough to have the difficult and honest discussions that are necessary in order for real change to take place. YPI began in Baltimore, then went to White Plains and Yonkers, New York, and into Boston’s challenging Franklin Field Public Housing Development, which had some of the worst homicide and violence statistics in the nation.
In 2010, Youth Link developed a YPI Train-the Trainer program to help local communities build capacity to continue YPI trainings efficiently at a lower cost. To date, over 25 communities have used YPI to build new trust between struggling neighborhoods and local police departments from Bermuda to the state of Washington.
Youth Link’s efforts have resulted in:
- Reduced juvenile crime
- Increased educational attainments
- Youth having increased aspirations
The goal is simple: Provide young people with critical life skills and foster a desire for a successful future; and the results are tangible.