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New bill aims to prevent youth and gang violence

House Bill 422 would grant five localities $25,000 grants to perform community assessments. The goal is to prevent youth and gang violence.

NORFOLK, Va. — It's an unfortunate reality in cities across the U.S.

Gun and gang violence happen every day and they often involve young people.

A new bill aims to address the issue. House Bill 422 would help cities where youth violence is prevalent by awarding them grants to tackle the issue.

If it passes, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond and Roanoke would each receive $25,000 grants. In total, the Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Program would receive up to $125,000 per year in grants.

The money would be used to perform community assessments in each locality. The goal is to figure out how each individual community should tackle the problem.

95th District Delegate Marcia Price introduced the bill. She represents parts of Hampton and Newport News.

“Unfortunately, too many young people are choosing to spend their time affiliated with groups that are not good for them and don't have their best interest at heart, and so what these do is help make sure that the community is recruiting harder for the good activities and the successful trajectory harder than the gang recruiters are,” said Price.

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Price said she hopes urban areas will come together and show the youth they have support. Helping them stay away from weapons, finding jobs, and living better lives.

Price said the assessments are a key first step in identifying how each community should address the problem.

“One of the components of these community assessments is that they are truly community-based, and I know a lot of people do program evaluations but really at the center of these conversations should be the community that’s going to be impacted, it should be the youth to find out what they really want not just us making decisions for them, so it is proactively looking for input from these communities,” said Price.

Gov. Ralph Northam has already set aside $150,000 in his proposed budget to fund the program. However, the budget has yet to be finalized.

“We’re hoping that by the time these assessments are finished, Congress would appropriate the Youth Promise Act on the federal level and if not, I’ll come back next year and try to get more money for implementation of the programs,” said Price.

If the bill passes, the grants may become available by July 1, 2020.