Policy hearing focuses on youth violence intervention and prevention

Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus co-hosted hearing with officials in Erie

ERIE, Aug. 23 – The House Democratic Policy Committee convened a hearing Tuesday morning with the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus to discuss methods of youth violence intervention and prevention.

“My home city of Philadelphia has been gripped by gun violence, and – although the majority party in Harrisburg has repeatedly refused to bring legislation designed to end gun violence up for a vote in the House or even in committee – I’m uplifted by the testimony we heard today in Erie,” said Donna Bullock, the chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus and co-host of the hearing. “We heard the stories of volunteers and dedicated stewards of the community about the positive impact they are having through their service and programs.”

Tuesday’s hearing, titled Youth Violence Intervention and Prevention, was held at the Eagle’s Nest Leadership Corporation. The Eagle’s Nest offers a series of programs, including employability initiative (a boot camp for people striving for success in a career), a school of academic distinction, group daycare for preschoolers and a school of financial literacy for high school students.

The committee heard testimony from nonprofit leaders, community organizers and advocates working to end gun violence. They highlighted success stories in programs designed to prevent youth violence and intervene when young people are involved in crimes and violence.

“Today’s hearing shined a light on the incredible work being done throughout our county to influence young people – particularly those facing social and economic challenges – and steer them toward a path destined for lifelong success,” Policy Committee chairman Ryan Bizzarro said. “I know there are remarkable people in my hometown doing incredible work with children, and this hearing reinforced the fact that these programs are not only making a difference in young people’s lives but also in our community.”

One testifier pointed to stricter gun laws as a strategy to cut down on youth violence. Josh Fleitman, CEO of CeaseFire PA, said policies to make it harder for guns to get into the hands of those that intend to cause harm, as well as addressing the root cause of gun violence, are two huge steps in the right direction. One solution he recommended is to pass H.B. 980, which would require the reporting of lost and stolen firearms within 72 hours of noticing it’s missing. Fleitman testified that this would help staunch the flow of these illegal guns that fuel a significant portion of youth and community-based violence.

“Violence is a solvable problem, and its continued escalation is in many ways a policy and political choice. Study after study shows that the states with stronger gun laws have less gun violence. A growing body of research shows that investing in evidence-based community violence prevention programs is an effective way to reduce violence,” said Fleitman.

Testimony from the hearing can be found here. Photos are available here.

Information about this hearing and other House Democratic Policy Committee hearings can be found at pahouse.com/policy.