The West Side Youth Violence Prevention Coalition (WSYVPC)—a group of more than 60 city, county, state, and national stakeholders—will officially unveil a series of billboards on Thursday, November 10, at 11:00 a.m. at the West Side Community Center, 161 Vermont Street. The public is cordially invited.
The six billboards, which display messages targeted toward parents, will be placed throughout the 14213 zip code area on Buffalo’s West Side. U.S. Attorney William Hochul, Western District of New York, will offer brief remarks, along with William Wieczorek, director of the Center for Health and Social Research (CHSR) at Buffalo State College.
The WSYVPC was formed in 2009 through community outreach efforts of Buffalo State to address the increasing problem of children becoming involved with violent activities. Stakeholders worked together to gather data, look at best practices, and develop and implement strategies to address youth violence. Participants were drawn from Buffalo State researchers, faculty, and staff; law enforcement; Buffalo Public Schools; the courts; the Erie County Health Department; and community, business, and faith- based organizations in the neighborhood. Today the WSYVPC uses an environmental prevention approach, which is an evidenced-based strategy with three main goals: changing the environment, changing social norms, and increasing enforcement.
“Research clearly shows that parents are the main influence on children—even throughout adolescence,” said Wieczorek. “These billboards are designed to reinforce the crucial roles and impacts of parenting.”
The changing social norms subgroup of the WSYVPC established that parents are the first line of defense between children and their involvement with drugs, gangs, and violence. Parental surveys were developed, and help was enlisted from Buffalo State students from the health and wellness program as well as public communication to develop effective messages. Parents involved with School 18 and West Side Community Services were also involved. Together, they created a number of billboard messages concerning community norms related to appropriate parenting. The messages appearing on the billboards are drawn from those messages. The messages also will be placed on posters printed in English, Spanish, Arabic, Somali, and Karen (a language spoken in Myanmar) and placed in businesses around the West Side.
The WSYVPC is funded, in part, by a Project Safe Neighborhood grant from the United States Department of Justice and is coordinated by CHSR.
For more information on the West Side Youth Violence Prevention Coalition, please contact Jonathan Lindner, health educator and research analyst, CHSR, at (716) 878-6137.