Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence manual against violence lists 748 tactics

Volunteers shared ideas over six years

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After years of work by hundreds of volunteers, leaders of a local anti-violence group have released a handbook on preventing violence and reducing the number of homicides among young African-American men.

Members of the Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence, which developed the manual that was released Friday, said they hope the community, from schools and churches to businesses and individuals, would use the manual to begin making real changes to reduce violence.

Even those pressed for time can help simply by reading and implementing the group's suggestions to become active in the community and to strengthen the role of the family in teaching, guiding and supporting children to become responsible adults, the group's leaders said at Friday's launch ceremony at the Community College of Allegheny County's North Side campus.

"Our feeling was that if people would absorb those two sections closely and to the heart, it would greatly impact the atmosphere of our community," said Tim Stevens, chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project, which organized creation of the manual, including a special edition for schools and youth programs and a community services directory.

The manual, which will be distributed locally, also is being distributed by the National Urban League to its 100 affiliates around the country after Esther Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, sent a copy to national leaders for consideration, Mr. Stevens said.

The manual-writing project was begun by the B-PEP in 2007 after a report that year identified Pennsylvania as leading the nation in homicide rates among African-Americans.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Max Baer, a former family court judge for Allegheny County, said his current duties include reading into the record the verdicts in homicide cases, including death penalty cases. The cases "break your heart" because they often involve minority-on-minority crime by young people fighting over drugs and sometimes women, he said.

But following the steps in the manual could make a real difference, and hopefully save lives, Justice Baer said.

"With gentle persuasion, relentlessly applied, you can cure this problem with 10,000 baby steps," he said.

Between 2009 and 2012, hundreds of volunteers -- pastors, police officers, judges, social workers, wardens, teachers and laypeople from all walks of life -- shared their thoughts on the materials being developed, with their suggestions helping shape the final outcome. Even the children at Shuman Center were given a chance to review the material and offer their comments about what might help them or young people like them, said former Shuman director Jack Simmons.

"A lot of the kids responded positively," Mr. Simmons said. "It's a tough population at Shuman, but they really wanted to delve into the production."

The manual includes 748 strategies -- B-PEP vice chairwoman Valerie Dixon counted -- for preventing bullying, domestic violence, gun crimes and gangs and other social ills while also cultivating education, health, civic engagement, financial literacy, employment and responsible family relationships.

"When you ignore a problem, it grows and reaches your home," she said.

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Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: or 412-263-1719. First Published October 18, 2013 8:00 PM


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