PENNSYLVANIA — State Senator Katie Muth (D-Chester/Montgomery/Berks), Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, joined Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks) and Senator Art Haywood (D-Montgomery/Philadelphia) last week at Alvernia University in Reading to discuss strategies to engage youth to reduce violence and keep them out of the justice system.
The hearing featured testimony from experts in law enforcement and state agencies as well as nonprofit service providers who each discussed the challenges and opportunities related to Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system and community violence.
“This week’s hearing was a great opportunity to really learn about what is working and what challenges are facing our service providers and our judicial system when dealing with violence and crime among our youth. We need to do all we can to ensure that our children are not just surviving – but that they are thriving,” Muth said. “We have to continue working together, learning what works and documenting what works so that we can invest state funding into programs and services that are proven to work to keep juveniles out of our justice system and keep our communities safe.”
According to statistics provided by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), youth violence continues to steadily decline and fewer youth are coming into Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system. PCCD reported that between 2012 and 2021, the arrest rate for violent crime among youth in Pennsylvania decreased by 72 percent. And last year, the number of Pennsylvania youth who received a juvenile justice disposition was 15 percent lower than the prior year, and 57 percent lower than 2013-14 levels.
“I think we all understand that while every community in Pennsylvania is different, we all deal with crime. Too often, I think we react to incidents in our community instead of looking at root causes. That’s really what this hearing was all about,” Schwank said. “We had a great group of testifiers that provided us with terrific information that we can use to ensure programs that are making a difference are being supported across the commonwealth.”
According to a 2022 New York Times Magazine report, gun violence has surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death among American children and youth. PCCD Executive Director Michael Pennington cited statistics stating that between 2011 and 2020, 1,151 individuals between the ages of 10 and 19 lost their lives to gun violence in Pennsylvania.
“Unfortunately, juvenile violence is all too common in Philadelphia and across the state, leaving young people and their families caught in the literal crossfires. Neighbors are desperate for solutions, desperate for prevention, desperate for help,” Haywood added. “We need to support our young people through mentorship, multi-systemic counseling and services, and unwavering love.”
Participants in the hearing included Judge Scott E. Lash, Berks County Court of Common Pleas; Barbara Dancy, Berks County Juvenile Probation; Radarra McLendon, Founder, Village of Reading; Ebonie Cunningham Stringer, Executive Director, Berks Youth Violence Interruption and Intervention Program; and Michael Pennington, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
Other Senators that participated in the hearing virtually included Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Sen. Tina Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia), Sen. Tim Kearney (D-Delaware), Sen. Maria Collett (D-Montgomery), Sen. John Kane (D-Chester/Delaware), Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) and Sen. Jimmy Dillon (D-Philadelphia).
All submitted testimony from the policy hearing and the full video is available at SenatorMuth.com/Policy
For the latest news on everything happening in Chester County and the surrounding area, be sure to follow MyChesCo on Google News.