Utah violence too high;emergency declared

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    SYRENE KOON

    The Violence Prevention Collaboration has declared a state of emergency in Utah in an effort to control violence and promote change.

    Gov. Leavitt will sign a proclamation today declaring October “Violence Prevention Month.” In this proclamation, Leavitt will urge the people of Utah to take responsibility for reducing the amount of violence citizens are exposed to in the media and in real life. He will encourage everyone to work together in order to provide a safe and healthy environment for children.

    The proclamation defines violence as abusive acts by one individual against another including physical, sexual and psychological violence. Leavitt said this violence is tolerated but should not be acceptable in our homes or communities.

    Homicide deaths of Utah children have increased 255 percent and the juvenile arrest rate for violent crimes increased by 120 percent in the past decade, according to Utah Department of Health and Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

    In 1995, 42 Utah children ages 10-19 committed suicide, making it the second leading cause of death for this age group. Eighty-eight percent of these children used firearms to kill themselves.

    By age 18, the average Utah child will have viewed over 200,000 acts of violence on television alone, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Communications. Over 1,000 studies have found a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children. Prime time television programs show three to five violent acts per hour vs. 20 to 25 violent acts per hour during Saturday morning children’s programs.

    Fifteen thousand children in Utah seriously abuse alcohol or drugs, and eight children drop out of school every day in Utah, according to Utah Measures of Child Well Being.

    Fifty-nine agencies have joined forces to combat the growing crime rate. Each agency is addressing this problem in different ways, providing the possibility for greater success in getting the message across.

    “Violence is a learned behavior and can be unlearned,” said Tibby Milne, executive director of Utah Council for Crime Prevention. “There is a rise in youth committing violent acts, and 80 percent of these crimes are drug related.”

    The Utah Council for Crime Prevention has planned several focusing activities for October. A video called “Turn off the Violence” that teaches conflict resolution will be shown in Utah schools. In addition, felt stickers will be distributed for television and computer screens to remind people to turn off the violence.

    Drug Awareness Resistance Education is also active in educating youth in elementary, junior high and high schools across the state. DARE officers instruct youth in classrooms about the effects of drugs and alcohol and emphasize the importance of saying “no.”

    “We need to actively address this problem now,” Milne said. “We can do this by educating communities and families. Strengthening the family role is a critical part in reducing violence.”

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