On June 4, myself and Assistant Police Chief Jarod Kasner joined the King County Peacekeepers Collective and leaders from several other community organizations in front of City Hall to recognize Gun Violence Awareness Day and affirm our support for reducing gun violence in South King County.
It was a powerful event with some incredibly thoughtful speakers who continue to be on the front lines of addressing this issue affecting youth in Kent and around our region.
They handed out free gun lock boxes to encourage safety and responsible ownership, and shared their thoughts on our collaboration and how we can continue the important work of reducing the gun violence epidemic affecting our young people.
I want to thank King County, the Peacekeepers Collective, the Go First team and everyone here today (June 4) for coming together in this collaborative, community-driven way to make progress on reducing youth gun violence and incarceration in our region as we acknowledge June 4 as National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
Standing together and affirming our joint commitment to our community and young people sends an important and powerful message.
The only way to make progress toward addressing the gun violence epidemic is through partnerships between local government, police departments, health agencies and community organizations to find public health-based solutions for these problems, and the city of Kent is proud to be a partner here.
We have a real opportunity with this partnership to make a significant, positive impact on our communities, and we’re taking an important, preventative step today by offering these lock boxes and information about safely storing firearms.
By increasing awareness on the issue of gun violence, having these conversations and making these safety tools available, we’re making progress toward preventing at-risk youth from becoming involved in violent crime and the juvenile legal system.
And by prioritizing community immersion as a best practice in our police department, we’re strengthening our neighborhoods by forging relationships that affirm a sense of compassion, empathy and understanding between law enforcement and the community they serve.
With youth gun violence still on the rise, it has become so clear to me that this is a public health and safety crisis that requires immediate action along with a long-term regional plan, and I’m glad that we are taking action in that direction at the local and regional level.
Our youth are our future. And we owe it to them and all our residents as we work on this issue to recognize the reality of the racial disparities in our justice system, which has a substantial impact on outcomes.
We need to be focused on culturally responsive prevention and intervention, reducing recidivism, and the role we can play to keep our youth on the path toward a happy, healthy and safe adulthood.
Whenever possible, to minimize the punitive approach and focus on making sure young adults in our communities have every opportunity to succeed.
All of us realize that this is extremely challenging work. At the end of the day, our goal is to make our communities safer and improve the resiliency of our young people.
I think that recognizing how these things go hand-in-hand, and that we can’t hope to make real progress on either of these issues without addressing the other is extremely important.
Preventing youth gun violence by intervening early is our most effective tool to make our communities safer and ensure all of our youth, particularly youth of color, grow up in a safe environment that lends itself to their success.
Thank you again to everyone here today for committing to making this a priority.
Kent Mayor Dana Ralph delivered the above comments during the King County Peacekeepers Collective gathering June 4 at Kent City Hall.