AG optimistic about violence

Some programs are successful at curbing danger

— District attorneys from Colorado gathered at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Monday to learn about the status of youth violence in the state and how to further implement positive programs.

Delbert Elliott of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar toured the state last year to talk with students, administrators and law enforcement about youth violence and its prevention in each community.

"We in Colorado need to be leading the country in youth violence prevention," Salazar said.

Elliott said the presentation is part of an effort to encourage district attorneys to become more involved in programs that can benefit their communities.

"My hope is to urge communities to start looking at these kinds of programs (that work)," Elliott said.

Many school districts around Colorado, including Steamboat Springs, have implemented a Safe School Program, which came out of the Safe Community, Safe School Initiative after the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton.

Elliott presented information to the audience on what a safe school looks like and how districts can begin to change behavior.

Elliott said safe schools have high academic standards, clear rules and policies that are fairly enforced, parent involvement, effective community-school partnerships, afterschool programs and a promotion of good citizenship and character.

Elliott also suggested a safe school plan that allowed a planning team of administrators, teachers, parents, law enforcement, students and mental health professionals to assess the school, develop a crisis response team and provide programs for all.

"In Columbine, parents knew some things about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, law enforcement knew some things and the kids knew things," Elliott said. "But no one knew all those things."

Elliott listed programs to prevent general delinquency that didn't work (boot camps, gun buybacks or shock probation) and those that did work (school-based programs such as bullying programs or community-based programs such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters).

Salazar said after his and Elliott's tour last fall, they made three observations:

Issues facing young people have no boundaries.

Drugs and alcohol are huge problems in every community.

And many students are disconnected from meaningful adult relationships.

Salazar told fellow district attorneys about a drug deal gone wrong in Dove Creek, where a student was shot 19 times, execution-style.

"You wouldn't think that community would have that kind of violence," Salazar said.

Salazar also said not enough parents are involved and community organizations are not utilized in their most effective purposes.

"But unlike 10 to 15 years ago, things have changed. There are programs that do work," Salazar said.

"There's a new sense of community consciousness waiting to create solutions to problems."

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