Mayor unveils meditation room as part of Cure Violence initiative

Meditation room ribbon cutting
Meditation room ribbon cutting(FOX 8 photo)
Published: Oct. 25, 2018 at 6:16 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell is rolling out a new initiative to help combat crime, with a focus on the city’s youth.

The city is offering new services aimed at steering kids in the right direction.

Mayor Cantrell went to Facebook in a message directed at parents and at-risk youths.

"More and more of our young people are committing violent acts of crime, and this has to stop," Cantrell said in the video.

It's part of the mayor's Cure Violence initiative aimed at curbing crime in the community by reaching out to kids before it's too late.

Cantrell is expanding the use of the city's 311 hotline, offering guidance to parents of troubled kids.

"It's about being able to connect that parent to the services so we're not seeing that kid end up six months later in juvenile detention," Youth and Families Director Emily Wolff said.

Criminologist Peter Scharf said it's an idea that is already in place in Chicago.

"The Cure Violence model, it has a good, but not perfect track record in terms of evidence-based policing," Scharf said.

While both cities experience high rates of violent crimes, Scharf said that's not a guarantee the model will work here.

"How do you customize it to the realities of New Orleans is a very important issue. Can you take what worked in Chicago somewhat, and how do you adapt it to a new environment?" Scharf asked.

He adds that coordination between law enforcement and community groups will also be required.

As part of the program, the mayor unveiled a meditation room in City Hall.

"This has been established to be a safe space for our people to come to reflect, even to seek council if they need it," Cantrell said.

Cantrell says religious leaders and licensed counselors will be available to provide guidance.

“This is truly about, again, addressing the trauma that we know that lives within many of our families, many of our people every single day,” Cantrell said.

It's unclear how effective the program will be, but Cantrell hopes this holistic approach is one step towards finding a solution.

“There’s a lot of stuff we as a city, and we as an administration need to think through to make this work. And a lot of people I think are confused right now, but we’ll get it straight,” Scharf said.

The meditation room is not just for youths -- city administrators say this is a space for anyone who needs help getting connected to the right resources.

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