When people say “there is an epidemic of violence,” they recognize that violence is like a contagious disease. As such, public health strategies are effective ways to treat and prevent violence in ways that law enforcement cannot.
On May 8, Mayor Steven Fulop announced an executive order establishing a Violence Prevention Task Force to develop a community and health-based plan to reduce violent deaths and injuries in Jersey City. “Violence has terrible effects on individuals and communities,” Mayor Fulop said. “No level of violence is acceptable in our community.”
The executive order was signed as part of a gathering of people and organizations involved in violence prevention work in Jersey City. In addition to Mayor Fulop’s announcement of the task force, the group received a completed Community Violence Needs Assessment. Jennifer Jones gave a presentation on Jersey City Medical Center’s hospital-based violence interruption program, which offers individual assistance to help prevent future violence.
The 42 people who attended participated in a facilitated mapping exercise and gave initial follow up suggestions for the task force. Those are:
• Robust community engagement
• Youth participation and a direct outreach activity or event
• Commitment to individual follow up meetings
The task force will be co-chaired by Paul Bellan-Boyer, Director of the Division of Injury Prevention, and Carmen Gandulla, Director of the Division of Community Development. The task force’s job is to engage stakeholders, mobilize resources, and make recommendations for effective action to prevent violence. The task force is especially charged to involve and be informed by the people and institutions most affected by and most at risk of violence.
Stacey Flanagan, Director of Jersey City’s Department of Health & Human Services noted that “public health strategies have been proven effective in reducing violence. This initiative arises directly from community voices asking for new approaches. Treating violence as a health issue is a key part of building a Healthier Jersey City.”