Meeting held to find ways to stem violence in city
By Holly Herman
Last weekend's arrest of four teens in the slaying of a 15-year-old Reading boy brought to the forefront the need to find ways to reduce the violence plaguing the city.
That was the message as about 40 members of the Reading Youth Violence Prevention Project began their meeting Thursday at Alvernia University with a moment of silence for Willy Tineo-Ferreira, who was beaten and fatally shot, then robbed of his sneakers early Sunday in the 900 block of Green Street.
"When you lose one youth, you need to focus on all the youths in the community," said Annie Lyles, a consultant from the nonprofit Prevention Institute, Oakland, Calif. "We know what is happening in the community that is making violence more likely and we know what we need to do to make violence less likely."
The Institute is consulting for 25 cities nationwide—including Reading—to develop a plan to reduce violence. Catholic Health Initiatives, parent company of St. Joseph Medical Center, provided the $148,000 grant to develop the project.
The goal is to develop strategies that impact the family, schools and community.
Lyles said one objective is to improve the relationships between parents and children. She said arresting people is not the answer to the problem.
"You can't arrest your way out of violence," she said.
Kelly Altland, St. Joseph vice president of development, said the plan is expected to be ready by January. Additional funding will be provided to implement the plan.
"The recent violent death brings to the forefront why what we are doing is extremely important," Altland said.
The gathering in the university's student union was the group's third meeting and was planned before the slaying.
Laura Welliver, project coordinator at St. Joseph, said she organized about 100 individuals to participate in the project.
"We need to develop an action plan," Welliver said. "We can't just do one thing to change the situation. We have to look at the underlying issues in our community."
Frank J. Vecchio, Reading High School assistant superintendent, said urban violence is a problem nationwide and he is hopeful the group will address the reasons youths turn to violence.
Frank Denbowski, chief of staff for Mayor Tom McMahon, said the city does not have the answers.
"I don't think we need to create new programs," he said. "We need better coordination and policies. That is the best way to address the violence."
Yvonne Stroman, director of community programs for Community Prevention Partnership of Reading, said that sometimes there are incidents that don't make sense.
"We have to go forward with our plans," Stroman said. "We have to make sure that people are safe where they live, work and pray."