FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 10, 2014
CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins recently joined Teen Empowerment at Boston’s City Hall as a participant in the group’s ongoing dialogue series. The event brought together teens and community officials to discuss violence in the community and ways to reduce it.
Teen Empowerment is an organization that inspires young people, and the adults who work with them, to think deeply about the most difficult social problems in their communities, and provides them with the tools they need to work with others in creating significant positive change.
During the event, the group broke into pairs to discuss various subjects, posing questions that ranged from, “What makes you powerful and how do you use that power in your day to day life?” to “What makes you angry and what do you do when you get angry?” At the conclusion of this segment, the group reassembled as a collective to discuss strategies that can be used to reduce violence in their communities.
One discussion in particular focused on recreating the Boston Miracle, the collaboration that occurred in the 1990’s, which brought together communities, ex–offenders and members of law enforcement to curb street violence. This strategy was credited with a dramatic reduction in crime in Boston’s neighborhoods, and was subsequently implemented in other cities across the country.
In discussing why the Boston Miracle was successful, members of Teen Empowerment pointed to the importance of building healthy relationships between police and youth.
“If you have a police force that doesn’t walk like you, look like you, and hasn’t been in your shoes, that can create a disconnect,” Sheriff Tompkins agreed. “That’s why it’s important to see members of law enforcement in good times, when no crisis exists, to help build positive working relationships.”
Sheriff Tompkins then addressed the whole group, sharing his own miracle with them and speaking about how groups like Teen Empowerment can contribute to the creation of the miracle that they are seeking.
“Here’s a miracle for me personally,” said Sheriff Tompkins. “I grew up in a single–parent household in the projects in Harlem, New York with a mother who was an alcoholic, and I now work at the Sheriff’s Department where the vast majority of people there are Black or brown. I have an affinity with these people. When I was your age, I could have easily ended up where they are — but, that just wasn’t my destiny.”
“That wasn’t my destiny in part because of my involvement in groups like this,” Sheriff Tompkins continued. “What you get out of groups like this is that you learn that you’re going to have to create your own opportunities. Nothing is going to be given to you. Wherever it is that you want to go, whatever it is that you want to be, you’ve got to be the one to make that happen.”
For more information about Teen Empowerment, please visit: www.teenempowerment.org.