ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — There’s no easy solution to tackling Rockford’s violent crime problem, according to city leaders, who say it requires a multi-step approach from various organizations.
One solution starts by addressing the city’s youngest victims of violence, and giving them hope.
According to the U.S. Department of justice, children exposed to violence are at a higher risk of engaging in criminal behavior later in life.
“We know, statistically, that about 70% of all youth we are arresting for violent offenses grew up in a household where violence occurred, and they experienced some form of trauma,” said Mayor Tom McNamara.
Annie Hobson, the Youth Services Manager for the Family Peace Center, says kids shouldn’t grow up believing that violence is a day-to-day occurrence.
“Hearing a gunshot and going back to studying in a classroom, that’s not normal,” she said.
Camp HOPE America is the first evidence-based, year-round camping and mentoring program in the country for children and teens impacted by domestic violence.
Rockford will offer Camp HOPE to local children and give them the resources they need to recover, through activities designed to challenge their perceived risk or danger.
“It teaches them how to manage their fears at their own pace,” Hobson said. “It helps them to have choice and say in how their outcomes look.”
McNamara added, “We need to make sure that we, as a community, are wrapping our arms around those youth, making sure that they know that they’re loved, and get the services they need at a young age, when they’ve been impacted by trauma, often violence in the home.”
Rockford City Council will consider an intergovernmental agreement with the Rockford Park District to use Atwood Park to host Camp HOPE this summer.