Staff Report

WEST PALM BEACH — City leaders hope a new program backed by federal dollars will curb youth violence and improve the health and well-being of children and teenagers in less affluent areas.

West Palm Beach is one of only nine cities nationwide chosen by the federal Department of Health & Human Services and the federal Department of Justice to receive funding for the program.

The grant, in the amount of $340,000 per year for three years will be used to target 60 at-risk children between the ages of 10 and 18. The program will be part of the city’s Youth Empowerment Center.

The children will participate in programs that will cover everything from preventing youth violence to how to become more aware of good nutrition. Gang prevention and teaching the participants about what services are available to help them are also part of the program.

The program will also provide for a
West Palm Beach police officer to be stationed at the youth center in order to help build positive relationships with police officers.

“We’ve always had a security guard, but it is just not the same as having a police officer. Having a police officer really helps build relationships and it also helps the officers get to know the kids at a better level,” said Christine Thrower, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The grant funding is through the Minority Youth Violence Prevention: Integrating Public Health and Community Policing Approaches (MYVP) program. The collaboration is a joint effort by the HHS Office of Minority Health and the DOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) to support interventions aimed at addressing youth violence, improving academic outcomes, increasing access to public health and social services, reducing disparities, reducing negative encounters with law enforcement and reducing violent crimes against minority youth.