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Study our increase in violence

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Bret Nilles, guest columnist

As chair of the Linn County Democrats Central Committee (LCDCC) I write on behalf of the entire body of the central committee and its executive board. The LCDCC aims to promote the betterment of government and the promotion of such governmental activities as shall protect the inherent rights of our fellow man.

Recently, the group 1 Strong, a community organization, presented their concerns about the current prevalence of violence within the Linn County Area. Epidemiologically prevalence refers to the total number of individuals in a population who have a disease or health condition at a specific period of time, usually expressed as a percentage of the population. Using that definition we all have the disease of violence. If we do not ourselves commit acts of violence, we read and hear about it from a neighbor, friend or in the news. Each of us feels the impact of that reporting to different degrees.

The Linn County Democratic Central Committee voted unanimously to issue a proclamation endorsing 1 Strong in asking the Cedar Rapids City Council to request the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate violence in the city as an epidemic. The group cited a study done by the CDC on Wilmington, Del., a city of 70,000 that saw a 45 percent increase in shootings from 2011 to 2013, according to a New York Times article. The CDC analyzed the violence increase from an epidemiological perspective.

Cedar Rapids had 29 incidents where someone was actually shot in 2015. This does not include any shootings outside of Cedar Rapids proper or any other types of violence. As of June 2, 2016, Cedar Rapids police have responded to 44 reports of gunshots this year. From January through May last year, that number was 30.

Police responded to 100 gunshot incidents in 2015, the most since they started keeping track in 2008. Last year’s number was nearly double from 2013, which had 56 reports of gunshots.

In 2013 President Barack Obama released his plan directing the CDC and other scientific agencies to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence in “Now Is the Time”. The plan was in response to the worst school shooting in an elementary or high school in U.S. history. The plan also called for an expansion of the CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System.

The violence in Cedar Rapids is not only a law enforcement issue, but also the symptom of a much larger social issue that must be addressed broadly and over the long term. But a lack of good data has left the many violence prevention and community building groups wishing to address this complex issue wondering how to begin or where to focus our efforts.

Researchers have identified a number of risk factors that increase a person’s likelihood of committing a violent act, including: having been a victim of or witness to violence; unemployment; having a history of child protective services investigation or out of home placement; juvenile court involvement; school performance; social services involvement and school discipline, but the significance of each of these risk factors varies by community, depending on how common they are among the general population. The focus of public health is on the health, safety and well-being of entire populations. A unique aspect of the field is that it strives to provide the maximum benefit for the largest number of people.

The CDC also emphasizes input from diverse sectors including health, education, social services, justice, policy and the private sector. Collective action on the part of these stakeholders can help in addressing problems like violence. Using the CDC’s objective oversight with the cooperation of local agencies to devise a package of tools aimed at developing an assessment tool, with increased collaboration between social service agencies in preventing violence, and implementing these tools and programs could decrease the likelihood future violent crime.

Therefore the members of the Linn County Democratic Central Committee urge the city of Cedar Rapids to contact the CDC and use the direct advantage of clear objective protocols streamlining local resources outlined from the study to action.

• Bret Nilles, of Marion, is chairman of the Linn County Democratic Central Committee. Comments: banilles26@hotmail.com

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