Tallahassee has seen a spike in violent crimes over the last three years. The violence is mostly committed by teens and young adults.
With the help of different programs, the city is encouraging teens to turn away from violence and embrace other opportunities.
In 2019, Leon County was ranked as having Florida’s highest crime rate per capita for the fifth year in a row. The county’s total crime index was 13,026, with 1,167 aggravated assault cases, 351 robberies and 20 homicides as reported by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Officer Kevin Bradshaw, a public information officer for the Tallahassee Police Department, says there are multiple levels of crime that are committed. It begins with misdemeanor crimes like kids getting into fist fights, which could turn into felonies later in life.
“Of course, there is no hard and fast rule, but in general we will see the younger kids involved in the pettier crimes and as they get up in their later teenage years, we’ll see more of the serious crimes on the felony side,” Bradshaw said.
Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson says that adults contribute to the community’s gun violence issue by leaving their loaded weapon in unlocked cars.
”Over the last year or two, 53 percent of gun related incidents involve a gun that was stolen from someone’s car,” Richardson said.
Earlier in the 2019-2020 school year, three students from Godby High School were fatal victims of gun violence. Randi Lundgren, chair of the Fine Arts Department at Godby, said gun violence can be traumatic for the entire school.
“Anyone who experiences violence in any way is affect not only physically but emotionally. It’s bound to negatively impact their academic success as well,” Lundgren said.
According to a study conducted by the University of Southern California, being exposed to early community violence will cause less school engagement. Having youth engaged with school and being successful academically often coincides with less exposure to community violence.
Not being able to perform well academically and having exposure to community violence causes elevated levels of psychological distress or having a hard time staying focused.
There are a few local programs that have been effective in preventing children’s involvement with gun violence and are offered year round.
One of these programs is Tallahassee Engaged in Meaningful Productive for Opportunity youth (TEMPO). This program is offered for ages 16-24 who have dropped out of school and are unemployed. It is an outreach program that goes into what is called a promise zone. A promise zone contains high crime, abuse, poverty and violence.
Kimball Thomas oversees TEMPO as the youth program manager. The TEMPO program has over 200 participants who work with local career sources and job finder providers to help them find employment. The program also continues to help in furthering a participant’s education.
“We focus on them getting their GED and or high school diploma then making a transition into a community college to a four-year college or a technical, vocational school to get a skilled license or certification in a certain area,” Thomas said.
For more information on signing up for TEMPO-Tallahassee see https://www.talgov.com/neighborhoodservices/tempo-tallahassee.aspx