Grassroots group hopes to solve violence problem in Iowa City's southeast side - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Grassroots group hopes to solve violence problem in Iowa City's southeast side

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) - Iowa City's southeast side has dealt with plenty of violence in recent months. To deal with the problem, the city council is considering a juvenile curfew.

While they're debating, a grassroots neighborhood group is trying something different.

Henri Harper, a juvenile court liaison for City High School, told us that solving the problem of violence on the city's southeast side begins with rebuilding the neighborhood from the ground up.

"This is not a curfew issue, it's the issue of the community as a whole," Harper said.

He's spearheading an effort to create a citizen's coalition, which met for the first time Wednesday evening. The idea: neighbors getting to know each other on a first-name basis. "The only way I feel that can happen is that we get out on the streets and talk to people, and knock on doors, and talk to the residents." 

Harper wants to give parents the tools they need to keep their kids out of trouble, even if it's as simple as teaching them some basic parenting techniques. Coalition member Valerie Nyberg says including youths in the process of strengthening their own community will help keep them from feeling alienated.

"If we see a bunch of kids in the street, why are they there? Have you gone up and talked to them? What's your name, what are you doing? And not in an interrogating kind of way, just to find out who they are, and what's going on."

Harper realizes a coordinated outreach won't solve all the neighborhood's problems, and that a few individuals who refuse to cooperate may need to deal with law enforcement. But Crime Prevention Officer Jorey Bailey says this is a step in the right direction.

"Once you build relationships, that's the key. You need to build relationships first, and then educate," Bailey said.

Harper and the rest of the coalition plan to go door-to-door with their cause next week.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith 

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