City of Cleveland’s new chief of violence prevention talks ‘solutions’ with Central residents

City of Cleveland’s new chief of violence prevention talks ‘solutions’ with Central residents

Nearly one hundred residents and community partners gathered at the Friendly Inn Settlement on January 18  for Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood’s Advisory Board and Community Meeting.

Duane Deskins, city of Cleveland’s new chief of Prevention, Intervention and Opportunity for Youth, attended the meeting and spoke with Central residents about community-led violence prevention efforts.

“Violence can’t be stopped by law enforcement alone. All of us are needed to solve this problem,” Deskins said. “We need to be intentional in our efforts and conversations and we need to directly reach the youth engaging in violence or it won’t make a difference.”

Residents and community partners hold a group discussion on violence prevention.
Residents and community partners hold a group discussion on violence prevention.

According to, Deskins will develop a strategy to draw together government offices, nonprofit agencies, the private sector and corporate community to tackle the social problems and dearth of opportunities that beget crime and violence in the neighborhoods.

A native of Cleveland’s Glenville and Shaker Square neighborhoods, Deskins, comes to the city via Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty’s office, where he led a broad initiative aimed at improving the quality of juvenile justice countywide.

“Creating jobs leads youth to mentors,” Deskins said. “Kids need to see innovation being done in order to learn the value of innovation and how it works, and they can do by working.”

Over the past few months, the Central community has started a number of resident-led programs meant to help create a safer community. Residents have led the renovation and re-opening of the art room at the Lonnie Burten Recreation Center and support groups for women affected by community violence as ways to support.

Dwayne Browder, president of the Central Youth Sports and Education Commission, has been an active member the efforts to create safe and constructive activities for youth in the community and also spoke to residents at the Promise Neighborhood meeting.

“We all have a responsibility to work on reducing violence. We aren’t going to wake up one day and it’s all just going to disappear,” Browder said. “Young people need to get involved and stay in school, once they stop going to school they get lost and turn to crime.”

The meeting concluded with parents, youth, residents and community partners holding a group discussion on the causes of violence and identifying possible solutions. Overall themes for causes of violence included: poverty, education challenges, lack of constructive and safe activities for youth. Some of the general solutions the group presented are: more job opportunities, breaking down educational and literacy barriers, access to transportation and community resources.

Community violence will be a reoccurring theme at the Promise Neighborhood Advisory Board and Community Meetings throughout the year.  Join us and be part of the solution. Dates and times are listed below. All meetings are held at Friendly Inn Settlement, 2386 Unwin Road.

Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood Advisory Board and Community Meetings

March 15, 2017 4 – 6 p.m.

May 17, 2017 4 – 6 p.m.

June 19, 2017 4 – 6 p.m.

September 20, 2017 4 – 6 p.m.

November 15, 2017 4 – 6 p.m.

Perspective: The answer to stopping violence? Listen.

Perspective: The answer to stopping violence? Listen.

Joe Black, Promise Neighborhood engagement manager

Data shows many urban communities are seeing a rise in gun-related violent crimes, which is undoubtedly contributing to an increase in the number of young black lives being lost. An unfortunate side-effect of the rise in violence is acceptance of this behavior as the new normal. It seems the rise in violence has led to a loss of hope, and talk of solutions to end violence are often nothing more than formalities that fail to produce concrete plans to stop the loss of lives.

Youth violence forum at Friendly Inn Settlement.
Youth violence forum at Friendly Inn Settlement.

On December 14, 2016, several resident leaders in the Central neighborhood decided that it was time to take a stance on the violence in the community. The decision to act led to a youth forum being held at the Friendly Inn Settlement. The event exposed the barriers of violence in the community by uplifting the voice of youth and parents. It concluded with all parties pledging to peace, through an intentional investment in self and in the community. As a participant, I left grateful to have the opportunity to impress hope on the lives of the youth, but I realized my activity must match my passion and there is still a need to do more.

Initially, I struggled with where to begin trying to solve this issue. Reflecting on my experiences in New York as a National Urban Fellow, I thought about the policies I studied and how so often the answer was never a concrete solution. What is the solution to violence?

The best way to determine what to do is to listen and see how to apply your skills to the voice of those most in need. Which is why attending the youth forum was so valuable.

While my action may be in writing and mentoring youth, another person’s action may include cooking hot meals for newly released felons.  A father in the community may agree to serve as a coach for the kids, and a business owner may seek to employ more residents from the community.

The answer to violence can be as simple as deciding to do something instead of doing nothing.

The group of 50 young men at the forum was asked to raise a hand if they have been to a college graduation. Out of all those bright beautiful minds, only three raised their hand.

The group was then asked to raise a hand if they have been to a funeral recently. Fifty hands rose. This is the reality of a community where only six percent of youth have been exposed to a college graduation but one hundred percent of them have witnessed death.

One hundred and thirty-five lives were lost to violence this past year. Imagine how many of those lives had never attended a graduation. Central youth are being exposed to realities that far exceed the norms of past generations and because of that, we must act. So in response to the voices that I heard on December 14th, 2016, I vow to serve the youth by exposing them to advanced learning opportunities. I vow to challenge the youth to engage in learning before they engage in violence. More importantly, I vow to listen and to act.

I ask that those who share the same passion as me take a stance by contacting me directly at 216.346.5639 or via email at, because now is the time to act.