Plan to prevent violence in Hillsborough

Tampa, Florida -- It's a tall order, but community leaders are working to put an end to violence in Hillsborough County.

Local leaders, law enforcement and community members are unveiling a plan Monday to make neighborhoods in Hillsborough safer.

County Commissioner Kevin Beckner says there's a lot of work to be done to prevent violence and law enforcement can't do it alone. It's a 5-year plan and the work starts immediately.

The group, Violence Prevention Collaborative, was formed after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., shocked the nation and the community. The group has been looking at different factors over the past year that contribute to violence in our community: poverty and truancy.

Members are taking a closer look at domestic violence, child abuse and violent crime. They've worked to pinpoint ZIP codes that need the most help.

Mother Tamika Vaughan sees the crime in her neighborhood.

"More of the drug dealing and stuff, of course you don't want your kids going out with that going on," says Vaughan. She says she works hard to protect her teen son and daughter from the violence and tries to keep them safe and out of trouble. "You get one strike against you, and that's with you your entire life," said Vaughan.

Vaughan lives in the 33610 ZIP code, an area that's considered a hot spot for domestic violence and child abuse by the Violence Prevention Collaborative.

They're using data and maps to look at poverty levels and violent crimes as well.

"Our community is saturated by violence, and so if we really want to start making inroads, we need to look at different ways we can prevent violence before it happens," says Beckner.

Beckner is leading the charge after looking at 2012 crime numbers in the county that show: child abuse and gang crimes up 38 percent as well as more rapes and murders than the previous year.

"You have a child who has a concern about gang violence who doesn't feel safe in their own neighborhood, that's very concerning. It's not only about what's happening today, but what's happening in the future. Part of the dedication we have to have as a community is making sure we have a bright future for our children," says Beckner.

Dr. Martha Coulter of the University of South Florida says they surveyed students, ages 14 to 19 in Hillsborough County and the majority say they' would go outside more if they felt safer in their neighborhood. Right now, the teens feel safest at school.

The group found there is a cycle of violence that starts when kids are exposed and can lead to a life of crime.

As part of the plan, the Hillsborough County School District will roll out programs in the classrooms and focus more on supporting families.

READ:2014 Safe and Sound Hillsborough Strategic Plan

The group also wants to focus on mental health, drug and alcohol abuse. The plan is to work on cleaning up the targeted neighborhoods and provide more parks or gathering places, so neighbors can feel more united to stand up against crime.

The county commissioners will vote on the plan and funding for it at the Sept. 4 meeting.

As part of the 100-day action plan, the group will hire a coordinator to oversee all aspects of the plan.


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