Is urban agriculture one solution to gun violence in Decatur?
Decatur City Council members will be voting on whether large tracts of land within the city’s urban core should be repurposed for urban agriculture projects and a recreational field. The land is located in the Old King’s Orchard neighborhood, and projects would be coordinated by the Good Samaritan Inn and the Old King’s Orchard Community Center.
If funding is approved, the city will clear a one-and-a-half block area for urban agriculture projects coordinated by the Good Samaritan Inn thereby increasing resident access to fresh foods in what is currently a food desert. In a complementary project, the Old King’s Orchard Community Center will convert some of the vacant land that it recently received from the city for urban agriculture and for a recreational field south of the community center building. As part of both projects, the coordinating agencies will employ at-risk youth as well as individuals with barriers in entering the workforce.
Funding for the projects comes from federal and state sources. Thanks to State Senator Doris Turner, the city received $1 million for community development and violence reduction projects. Federal funding from Community Development Block Grants – Covid funds will also be used.
CAN CONVERSION OF BLIGHTED AREAS TO URBAN AGRICULTURE REDUCE CRIME?
Friday, June 2 was gun violence awareness day. Sadly, the City of Decatur has seen a significant increase in gun violence beginning in 2020, and May 2023 had the highest number of shootings of any May since at least 2018 (n = 17). To date, YTD thru May 2023 there have been 52 shootings, YTD thru May 2019, there were 20 shootings (160% increase).
The leading cause of death in children in the U.S. under the age of 18 is firearm injury, and it is entirely preventable. Furthermore, gun violence disproportionately affects individuals living in low household income zip codes and Black Americans.
One solution to reducing gun violence that has been verified in multiple national studies is the removal of blight and the creation of green spaces. The Old King’s Orchard neighborhood is the second most blighted neighborhood in the city with a blight score of 0.51 (i.e., there is a 51% probability that a property has a sign of blight) and at least prior to early 2019, had the second highest level of serious criminal activity.
Rightfully so, the Decatur City Council is asked to do more when it comes to reducing gun violence. Blight removal, repurposing of land, and creation of green space is something the city council can fund, and the city has substantial financial resources to do more and in an accelerated manner.
I thank Senator Doris Turner for her leadership in securing funding and thank Good Samaritan Inn and Old King’s Orchard Community Center for their efforts that will ultimately remove blight, repurpose land, and give at-risk youths opportunities they currently do not have. These projects will make our city better and safer.
PLEASE EXPRESS YOUR VIEWS AT THE NEXT CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Urban agriculture projects in the Old King’s Orchard neighborhood as well as other agenda items will be voted on at the next meeting of the Decatur City Council on Monday, June 5. Meetings take place at 5:30 PM in the council chambers located on the third floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance. Citizens are encouraged to attend meetings and express their views. Citizens are allotted 3 minutes per person near the beginning of each city council meeting. In addition, citizens can provide comments regarding one regular agenda item per meeting for up to three minutes provided they notify the city in advance (and prior to the start of the meeting). You can request to speak on a particular agenda item at a council meeting by filling out an on-line form at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/advance-request-to-speak-at-council-meeting/.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
If you would like to discuss city issues with a council member, phone numbers and email addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.
AGENDAS FOR CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE
An agenda and information about each agenda item for each city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/.